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Imagine a technique that begins with one simple movement and transforms every muscle in your entire body... a technique so easy you can learn it yourself.. .and so amazingly effective that your whole life may change for the better.
"The Alexander Technique
Nobel Prize-winner Nikolaas Tinbergen hailed the discovery of the. technique. With "growing amazement" he and his family noted "very striking improvements" in high blood pressure, depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness and mental alertness. Tinbergen concluded that the technique may often produce "profound and beneficial effects" to help: relieve rheumatism, various forms of arthritis and respiratory ailments • remedy circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure • alleviate many digestive disorders • reduce sexual failures, migraines and depression. Now you can learn the secrets of this unique, effortless technique and begin to realize your full physical and mental potential, starting today.
"Like opening a door into another world..."
One of our foremost teachers and practitioners of the Alexander Technique, Sarah Barker, has taught this amazingly effective method of mobilizing total energy in colleges across the country. From her own experience she has found that "the mere performance of this simple movement can, if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity, put you on the road to a new life of health, physical freedom and, in the deepest sense, personal happiness." Try the technique yourself for a few weeks with her simple, everyday routines and see what wonders it can do for you.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The Revolutionary Way To Use Your Body For Total Energy by Sarah Barker BANTAM BOOKS TORONTO • NEW YORK • LONDON • SYDNEY .
. Marca Registrada. ISBN 0-553-14976-8 Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books. For information address: Bantam Books. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part. by mimeograph or any other means. without permission. Inc.S. Copyright © 1978 by Bantam Books. Inc. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 . Bantam Books. Inc. consisting of the words "Bantam Books" and the portrayal of a bantam. Its trademark. 666 Fifth Avenue. is Registered in U. New York 10103. New York.For Marj THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: THE REVOLUTIONARY WAY TO USE YOUR BODY FOR TOTAL ENERGY 2nd printing A Bantam Book /August 1978 April 1979 3rd printing February 1981 Photographs courtesy of Susan and Reed ErskinelLightworks All rights reserved. Inc.
Contents Acknowledgments PART I LEARNING ABOUT THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: The Important Benefits It Offers You THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The What and the Why Scientific Acclaim Feeling at Your Best Age Is No Barrier If You Are Overweight Your Rampant Emotions Living Without Stress Being Who You Are Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases A Simple Method ix l 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 6 6 8 Chapter 1 Chapter 2 HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED The Australian Story Crisis on Stage The Patient Scientist A Unique Mission The Search and the Answer Outwitting Our Destructive Habits Those Puritanical Hang-Ups 10 10 11 12 13 13 15 15 V .
Whole Person Staying in the Moment vi CONTENTS .Chapter3 BRINGING THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE What Is Good Use? You Are Not a Statue No Positions. No Poses How to Look at Pictures The Breath of Life Let It Happen Your Breathing Improves How We Got This Way Three Easy Tests See For Yourself The Road to Take THE BASIC MOVEMENT Not an Exercise How to Start THE BASIC MOVEMENT Exploring Yourself The Basic Movement Your Whole Head Your Whole Body The Upward Direction On Your Way The Instant Train How to Succeed Without Really Trying 17 18 19 20 20 20 21 21 22 23 23 24 25 25 26 26 26 27 27 32 32 32 34 35 37 37 38 39 39 41 41 42 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 BECOME A WHOLE PERSON The Trouble with Physical Exercise The Trance in Which We Live Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves The Crown of the Senses Discover a World Within Part Person vs.
Chapter 6 THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG Why We Shrink The Upright Creature Must We Fall Apart? How We Conquer It Goes by Itself Never a Feeling of Strain A Future Without Fear THE PRACTICE OF THE TECHNIQUE How to Do It THE SEVEN ACTIONS An Effortless Program No Dumb-Bells. No Leotards A Way to Begin For Your Enjoyment Nine Rules to Follow 43 44 44 45 46 47 49 49 PART II 51 52 52 52 53 54 54 56 56 56 57 58 58 59 61 61 61 62 63 65 66 CONTENTS vii Action 1 LEANING FORWARD A N D BACKWARD Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Eating Soup How to Get Out of a Slump The Way You Talk MOVING ARMS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Brushing Your Teeth Opening a Door With Children Action 2 .
Action 3 WALKING WITH EASE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Jogging and Running Playing Golf MOVING LEGS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Walking Up and Down Stairs HEEL A N D TOE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life KNEE-BENDING Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life STANDING UP A N D SITTING D O W N Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE A Time For Rest Rotating Your Head Moving Your Arms Moving Your Legs Rolling onto Your Side Sitting Up 68 68 68 72 72 73 76 76 76 80 80 82 82 82 84 86 86 86 88 90 90 90 96 97 97 100 100 102 103 103 Action 4 Action 5 Action 6 Action 7 viii CONTENTS .
Anger. Panic 104 106 SOME HELPFUL HINTS The Worrier The Straining Housewife The Thinker The Scientist The Manipulator The Under-Achiever The Step-by-Stepper The Freezer The Over-Achiever The Practicer The Posture-Maker The Weight-Watcher 107 107 108 109 109 109 109 110 110 111 111 112 112 CONTENTS ix .Restful Slumber Emotional ControlWorry.
who supported me with their probing questions. for his remarkable speech accepting the 1973 Nobel Prize in Medicine. graciously and expertly collaborated with me in demonstrating for the photographs that illustrate this book. which places the Alexander Technique in a modern scixi . and all my students. I am grateful to Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. Alexander. I thought long and hard: The idea of learning the Technique from a book seemed revolutionary and possibly heretical. upon whose work I have drawn freely. had on his own discovered how to control the use of his body. I received the help of innumerable people to whom I am most grateful. the rest of us.Acknowledgments Before undertaking to write a "how to" book on the Alexander Technique. Peter Trimmer. could learn how. even lacking his genius. Special acknowledgment is due my colleagues and associates at Rancho Linda Vista in Arizona. benefited from the teaching experiments I conducted in the preparation of this book. Surely. of Oxford University. I am also indebted to several distinguished scholars in the field. My colleague. I would like to thank the various Alexander teachers with whom I have studied and spent long hours in discussion. if given a set of sure guidelines. Then I remembered that its originator. F M. hopefully. who were always available for the encouragement and energy needed to carry on. especially those who patiently suffered and. and thanks are also due to a number of close friends. When I began the necessary exploring and investigation. and whose individual help in some cases was indispensable to me.
who laid down the guidelines for those of us who have followed him. Of course. closely paraphrased a few passages from that study. This book is not intended to reflect the views of any of the considerable number of people who helped me. to Professor Raymond A. for the insights in his Anatomist's Tribute to F. I have. whose study introducing The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). The project is entirely my own. an indispensable selection of Alexanders writings. Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Dean Emeritus of the Medical Faculty of the University of Witwatersrand. whose studies of the Alexander Technique have accomplished much for the scientific understanding of this work. has contributed so greatly to public appreciation of the Alexander Technique. Wilfred Barlow for his informative accounts of the medical use of the Technique in treating patients. Dart.entific perspective. the greatest debt of all is to Alexander himself. to Edward Maisel. Research Associate at the Tufts Institute for Psychological Research. to Dr. Sarah Barker xii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . South Africa. In a couple of spots. Matthias Alexander. Frank Pierce Jones. to the late Dr. with Maisel's generous permission.
PART 1 Learning About the Alexander Technique The Important Benefits It Offers You .
a technique so amazing in its results that your physical and emotional life will soon change for the better. 2 .Chapter 1 The Alexander Technique: The What and the Why Imagine a technique for transforming the operation of your body. like the opening of a door into another world. his students and followers conducted a considerable amount of research to substantiate his findings. At the Tufts Institute for Experimental Psychology. During the years before and after Alexander's death in 1955. so simple that you can learn it yourself. That technique is the Alexander Technique. Matthias Alexander. There has also accumulated an impressive volume of clinical data. and known around the world as one of the most extraordinary discoveries of our time. twenty-five years of investigation—using quantitative measure and control groups—have thrown important light on the manner in which the Alexander Technique produces its seemingly miraculous effects. F. named for its discoverer. Scientific Acclaim It would surprise many people to realize what the Alexander Technique can do for them were its astonishing'results not supported by the most respectable scientific authority. reports by physicians attesting to its remarkable effectiveness in helping many of their patients.
the Alexander Technique proposes. an exuberant and vital sense of wellness: physical freedom and ease combined with mental flexibility and alertness. Even after forty or fifty years of continually misusing yourself. computerized or laser-beamed—that functions with such infinite resilience or so many delicate capacities as the human body.Feeling at Your Best Apart from suffering any specific medical symptoms. humanity's chance to survive may depend upon how men and women salvage themselves. John Dewey. He thereupon underwent an extraordinary rejuvenation and lived another thirty-five rich. We "manage". Ours is an era where people have begun to value their bodies as unique and wonderful. It's never too late. We have learned that there is no mechanical device in the world—electronic. Just as we have thoughtlessly depleted the natural resources of the planet. you can begin to make a beneficial and healthy change. Age Is No Barrier If you think you're too old to begin learning anything so revolutionary. most of us plod through our days and nights in a condition far below optimum. full THE WHAT AND THE WHY 3 . more than ever." Good health is regarded as merely the absence of sickness. Indeed. one of the founding fathers of scientific philosophy and modern education. so too are we daily abusing the most valuable resource of all—our bodies—and depleting our own energies. We scarcely begin to realize our enormous potential. Many of us know now that through ignorance and insensibility we unnecessarily limit ourselves in how we function. this factor may prove more critical than our ability to manipulate the environment further. and that today. we "get by. as normal. Against this keep-your-nose-above-water-level definition of being alive. you're wrong. took up the Alexander Technique at the age of fifty-eight.
whatever it may be? Why is it that two people of identical poundage and the same general build often have quite different looking torsos. What about the way we wear our weight. If You Are Overweight You can even streamline your physical appearance by means of the Alexander Technique. Something crucial is missing from our national quest for a more attractive physique. the other a nondescript but thickening bulge? A beneficial side effect of the Alexander Technique is a better carriage of the body's weight. exercise and strenuous exertion. The famous writer had spent all his days in a state of acute physical illness until he studied the Alexander Technique and transformed himself. What many authorities therefore find most impressive about the Alexander Technique is embodied in Aldous Huxley's statement that "If you teach an individual to be aware of his physical organism and then to use it as it was meant to be used. We have sufficient data on calories. prejudices and fixed habits. you can often change his entire attitude to life and cure his neurotic tendencies. and it is hardly news that human development in general is retarded by fear reflexes unduly excited by emotions. Your Rampant Emotions All of us are subject to "states" of various kinds. and he was beset by a terrible 4 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE ." Huxley might have given his own story as a case in point.years. The ninety-two-year-old Dewey attributed this vital longevity to his Alexander practice. He had begun to withdraw from people. And we have information about calisthenics. George Bernard Shaw learned the Technique at eighty and lived to ninety-four. diets and the dangers of eating too much. finding his physical and mental energies too drained by social contact. But little or nothing is ever mentioned about another important factor. which determines success in attaining a beautifully proportionate body. one possessing a true waist and chest.
" Some of these. We tend to be less depressed when we are not physically burdened.depression and a chronic insomnia that made it almost impossible to work. When angry. He had tried gardening. Living Without Stress We can see how this works easily enough. the foremost scientific investigator among Alexander scholars. for a change in mental attitude often accompanies an increase in health. Next time you're angry. Underneath are the unconscious tension states that can build into attitudes which interfere in our relationships with other people. worry. Jones observed in his own experience "an almost immediate increase in mental and emotional control. reported in other therapies as well. There is likewise an improvement in our self-image when we feel more competent physically. yoga and other remedies in vain. but it was the Alexander Technique that opened up a new way to live. We also discover how much more we like other people when we have a more relaxed feeling about ourselves. observed that while the physical effects of the Technique are indeed remarkable. "the psychological effects are of greater importance. notice whether you clench your hands slightly or perhaps a great deal." This is because the Alexander Technique gives a workable approach in attacking emotional problems directly. panic. may of course be explained as the happy side effects of any betterment in physical condition. he noted. and we are no longer simply at the mercy of confusion. you may find yourself making fidgety movements. you may also hunch your shoulders and fix your chest rigidly. anger. These are all surface reactions we can observe. Can the Technique really help with our mental and emotional problems? Professor Frank Pierce Jones. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 5 . But quite apart from these desirable side effects. Or if you're anxious about something.
countering their depressions and anxieties with a whole arsenal of tranquilizers. devoted half his acceptance speech to the Technique. or to shop from therapy to therapy. Millions of people exist in this half-alive state. Thus freed. you may find your feelings much more within your control. Instead. Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. there is no magic formula that will instantly solve their problems. by means of the Alexander Technique. hoping for some kind of emotional relief. If they turn to the Technique. or prevent the fidgeting. and moving hopefully from one fad to another. This new conscious control of yourself does not prevent you from feeling any emotional states—life would be rather stiff and boring if it did—but you will be able to allow for more appropriate and spontaneous responses to the events of your life if you are not locked into one fearful or angry response for all occasions. because you are no longer reinforcing them with body tension. Being Who You Are The Alexander Technique has particular value for people who don't want to fill themselves with drugs. Once you break this cycle of reinforcing feeling with body tension. you are able to experience emotions fully in a few moments and begin thinking clearly again. Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases Many people would find it hard to believe the seemingly fantastic medical cures attributed to the Alexander Technique except that these extraordinary reports come from reputable physicians and scientists. He related how his interest in it 6 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . In 1973. they are offered a release from the confines of habit so that they have some choice in their lives and become capable of acting more freely in whatever they do. upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine.When you release those clenched fists. you may even find that you no longer experience any disquiet—except perhaps to wonder where your rage or panic went.
and I repeat once more. including various forms of arthritis. no strokes. depth of sleep. and reported that in this group there were no coronaries. no discs. The British Medical Journal once published a letter. for example. his wife and one of their daughters had learned the Technique at the same time. both in the mental and somatic sphere. Wilfred Barlow. and called upon their profession to recognize and evaluate it. Dr. breathing. no neurological disorders and no severe mental disorder. even asthma. might be helped by the Alexander Technique.was excited by a little experiment he had tried with his own family. Tinbergen concluded that while the Technique is assuredly no cure-all to be applied in every case. signed by nineteen doctors. which is a point that must be emphasized." A physician. overall cheerfulness and mental alertness. migraines and depressive states that often lead to suicide. They noted. resilience against outside pressure. no rheumatoid arthritis. endorsing the Technique for its remarkable effectiveness in the treatment of many of their patients. circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure and heart conditions. that the Technique brought about "very striking improvements in such diverse things as high blood pressure.He. they observed "with growing amazement" the marvelous results. no cancers. All these as well as other non-bug diseases. Unfortunately. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 7 . sexual failures. Barlow called this statistic "almost unbelievable" and concluded that 99 percent of the population need the Technique." Tinbergen went on to affirm the possibility that certain other stress-related ailments could benefit from the Technique: rheumatism. no such evaluation has thus far been carried out. gastrointestinal disorders of many types. he suggested. and also in such a refined skill as playing a stringed instrument. "there can be no doubt that it often does have profound and beneficial effects. conducted a survey of men and women who had long used the Alexander Technique. respiratory ailments. no ulcers. As their body musculature began to function differently.
If you have any ailment or illness—even one due to.Although there has accumulated an impressive volume of personal testimony. or complicated by. there is no reason to delay the undertaking if a teacher is not available. A word of caution is therefore in order. This book will introduce you to the Alexander process of thinking and moving." In Part I. It presents a simple method for learning the Technique by yourself. no thorough-going scientific investigation has been conducted into any of the medical claims that have been made for the Technique. have informed their readers of what the Technique will do for bodies that display expensive clothes. Patients in medical institutes in London. A Simple Method People from all walks of life benefit from the Alexander Technique. "Since the Alexander Technique is nothing more than the application of experimental method to problems of everyday behavior. New York and elsewhere find it accepted as a valuable resource in physiotherapy. It provides a compass for navigating in whatever physical or mental perplexities you may find yourself. the Alexander principle has been encapsulated in one very simple action called the Basic Movement (Chapter 4). Those that have a professional interest in their bodies—musicians. you may readily apply it. Part II presents a systematic program of seven easy Actions that shows you how to expand the Basic Movement as the basis for improving the quality of all the activities of 8 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . It offers a key for orienting yourself in all that you do. actors—are making it an important part of their training program. like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. In the words of Professor Frank Jones. dancers. . Whether seated in a theater or standing waiting for a bus. the continual wear you place upon yourself through bad muscular habits—only your own physician can advise you if the Alexander Technique is likely to help. Highfashion magazines.
we need to learn more about Alexander himself and how he made his great discovery. shown by a man without medical training. however. To understand the Alexander principle. of intelligence and of persistence." said Professor Tinbergen in his Nobel speech. "is one of the true epics of medical research and practice. These Actions will facilitate this because they are invariably involved in almost everything you do.your everyday life. "This story of perceptiveness. and the Technique that derives from it." THE WHAT AND THE WHY 9 .
that have been reached in total isolation from any ongoing tradition of study and research. The Australian Story Frederick Matthias Alexander came from a remote outpost of the Australian bush country. no less significant for the welfare of the human race. In this way. an unusual woman who was close to the child during his formative 10 . acting independently of one another. He was born in 1869 on the island of Tasmania in a small town named Wynyard. Not much is known about his father except that he was poor and hard-working. This is certainly true of the way the Alexander Technique was discovered. At first glance. just waiting for the great person who discovered it. we can see that it does indeed owe almost everything to the peculiar genius of that individual and to the special circumstances of his or her particular life. Whatever influence he may have had on his son was far overshadowed by the boy's mother. are said to have hit upon the powerful mathematical tool of calculus at about the same moment in history. And upon closer inspection. the new proposition put forth appears to have sprung full-blown from the brain of its originator. Newton and Leibniz. But there are other turning points.Chapter 2 How the Technique was Discovered Many a major innovation in the history of science appears to have been lying there.
giving his recitals on numerous smalltown stages. Local doctors often called on her. she had been known to saddle her horse and leap it over the paddock gate so as not to lose time fooling with the latch.years. and away from the mining company could consider himself legitimately to be a professional actor. and it was this disability which proved to be the determining factor in his life. a Scot who had emigrated to Australia in an effort to repair his health. finally. Thus. she combined two of her talents. In Melbourne. He seemed to have an innate distrust of accepted routine and conventional wisdom. and sometimes in response to urgent calls. tutored but not formally taught. for the theater had been his love since early childhood. From the beginning. recitalist or both. In this wild and remote part of the world. Alexander won prizes and passed examinations with ease. but family poverty demanded that the eldest son go out to work. however. saw that his difficult pupil was something more than the usual rebellious student. Alexander was different from other children. refusing to accept anything on blind faith. After the mining came a succession of other uncongenial positions. Sometimes during recitals his voice failed him completely—disturbing enough for any actor! Doctors could HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 11 . Fortunately. he decided to cast his lot with the theater as actor. which was all the formal education the youngster received. Crisis on Stage He could have become the teacher his tutor wanted him to be. Alexander was already considered an accomplished reciter of Shakespeare. He persuaded Alexander's father to let him tutor the boy in the evenings. so he took a job with the local tin mining company. He would have liked to go on the stage. when he began at six to practice the kind of recitations so popular in that day. his schoolmaster. riding and midwifery (which included nursing and other medical services) to help her neighbors. trying to recoup his small fortune with odd jobs. He worked under a handicap. By the time he was nineteen.
the condition gradually worsened until he finally had to refuse engagements if he thought he might be incapable of getting through the performance. This close scrutiny continued for nearly ten years. he came upon the characteristic that was blocking his own activity. not only during his stage appearances. Once aware of it. Soon he began to go beyond his immediate problem. He discovered that every movement he made was accompanied by a slight tendency to pull his head backward and down. Alexander began to examine closely how he used himself physically when he was on stage—keeping his eyes open and observing. which is fundamental to the spirit of all scientific inquiry. he lost his voice and left the stage in near despair.give him no more than temporary relief. in fact. Alexander devoted himself to finding out what made him lose his voice. but also during any physical activity. 12 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . The Patient Scientist That was the turning point. Changing the poise of his head by pulling it backward and down was. part of a whole body pattern that also included lifting his chest and hollowing his back. becoming fascinated with the whole question of what happens to the body not only in speech. In time. One night. using mirrors while he declaimed as an aid to observation. This pattern of unconscious activity constituted the preliminary to every recitation he gave. halfway through an important engagement during the 1888 season. Meanwhile. but also when speaking normally in ordinary conversation. Instead. from the most trivial to the most strenuous. In everyday physical acts. quite apart from speaking. There were to be no more doctors. It was only more noticeable in formal recitation because there it produced a depression of the larynx and an audible sucking in of his breath that could. he began with that slight pulling backward and down of his head. At first. he could see the same pattern at work as involuntary preparation in whatever else he undertook. with attention. This was something he did.
But not for long. Through his students. Thus. finally abandoning the stage to carve a unique career as a teacher of the Alexander Technique. and a valuable compilation of his essential writings may be found in The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). New Zealand. South Africa and other countries of the world. France. Israel. movie stars. industrialists. and during his lifetime he worked both in England and America. in everything else he did. theater people. For as he pondered the far-reaching consequences of his startling discovery for the physical. The Search and the Answer We can come closer to understanding the nature of the discovery that underlies all we are going to learn in this book if we now outline it in the terms suggested at the outset of this chapter: a special kind of person makes an important HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 13 . Switzerland. athletes and celebrities of all kinds sought him out. he withdrew more and more from acting. Italy. Alexander resumed his theatrical career. no matter what business or occupation. Statesmen. all his other activities were likewise initiated in the same self-stultifying manner. writers. Australia. on a different scale. the obvious solution was to substitute for this negative action (with all the consequences it initiated) the conscious constructive movement of the head and body upward. A Unique Mission Since these patterns of bad use were triggered by an unconscious reflex of pulling the head backward and down.be seen and heard. after he-had completely corrected the long-standing vocal disability that drove him from the stage. He observed similar consequences. He continued this mission until his death at the age of eighty-six. mental and emotional well-being of people everywhere. his teachings spread to Denmark. diplomats. He also produced several books.
Alexander resumes his profession with renewed confidence. No use in seeing more and more doctors. His career seems assured—his reputation is growing steadily. it takes almost ten years of searching through more minute movements before the secret reveals itself. In fact. Thus armed. That secret is a small but perceptible contraction of the muscles at the back of his neck. he is forced to see a doctor about the problem. Alexander has found the key. he is an actor specializing in the recital of long passages from the works of classic playwrights. he devotes the rest of his time to a painstaking and meticulous observation of the only clue he has—himself. While carefully limiting his theatrical obligations. His great love for the theater had caused him to gravitate through a series of unchallenging occupations before attaining. and his only stumbling block is the occasional but very annoying tendency of his voice to give out during recitals. At the age of nineteen. and it precedes all efforts at vocal articulation. but he does prescribe a medicine that might just do the trick.finding through the circumstances of his or her particular life and in isolation from any tradition of scientific thought on the subject. a career on the stage. The scene is Australia during the 1880s. results are frustratingly slow in coming. Eventually. This leaves him with the ugly choice between (1) leaving the theater altogether or (2) applying himself tirelessly to discovering the cause of the problem. Through years of carefully watching his every motion in an elaborate system of mirrors. where we find the young Alexander confronted with a problem of survival. a remedy 14 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . It turns out that the doctor cannot find the cause. Being a far from submissive personality. only to have his voice fail completely halfway through an especially important engagement. at last. for he realizes that the physicians of his day know even less about his condition than he does. Alexander chooses the latter.
He must release that contraction with movement of his head upward. Unfortunately. They form an inseparable whole. body following it. With every act. which can cause loss of voice. And doing this means using the conscious mind to change our subconscious muscle patterns. We are not split into body and mind. The effect of this is a compression of the spine. It can lead to round-the-clock tension in some muscles. thus squeezing the delicate organs that reside there. Outwitting Our Destructive Habits Basically. which. reducing lung capacity and projecting the stomach unpleasingly forward. was this: mind and body are inextricably bound together.will follow. this destructive series can compress the body's trunk. high blood pressure and chronic joint and muscle pains. In order to revise things of which we are not aware. we need a new approach—one that can bring subconscious sensations forward into the conscious mind. and from his later teaching experience. To eliminate the problem at its source. repeated hundreds of times a day over a span of many years. we can consciously move our head upward. the first of a whole series that will follow if the first occurs unchallenged. The person is one psychophysical organism. And this is only one destructive habit. we need to prevent the neck from contracting unnecessarily. interferes with the smooth operation of the muscular and nervous systems and all the vital organs. Those Puritanical Hang-Ups A major conclusion that emerged from Alexander's study and observation. the customs of language entrap us much HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 15 . Taken together. the action that most often precedes wasteful or harmful responses is a contraction which pulls the head slightly backward and down.
" Or "my thoughts keep wandering. Whenever we divide ourselves in two like this. we could be finding out what we are doing that keeps us from solving our problems. we tend to look down upon the fleshly part as being inferior. the kitchen mess accumulates. personal grooming is neglected or forgotten . Instead. we also run the risk of never being rid of our troubles. It's "that damn leg of mine." We have something to blame." thus mistakenly conceived." we glibly say. the garbage is not carried out. the fault lies with one of those two separate halves. After all. The leaves go unraked. With disastrous consequences for our daily life. in fact downright lowly. at the same time visualizing a something mental that is embedded in a something fleshly. 16 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . can manifest itself in any of a thousand different ways that upset or swamp us. we may even persist in believing that the physical business of daily existence is unimportant or at least unworthy of our serious attention. if we happen to suffer from puritanical hang-ups.of the time into thinking so. Often. . Disdain for the mere "physical. the clutter of papers on the desk remains untidy. "A sound mind in a sound body. compared to the mind. or higher part. into a mental part and a physical part. quoting the ancient Greeks. .
by stress and excess muscle tension. our particular patterns of move17 . a new way to integrate thought with action. Sherrington. he said." We can readily see why. Besides. Sir Charles S. writing with a pen or pencil. closing windows." The Australian was therefore correct.Chapter 3 Bringing the Alexander Technique into Your Life Taking Alexander's discovery into your own life can mean strength. It simply offers a different biological approach from the one you have been using. always involves us in patterns of movement and rest. unscrewing the caps of jars or uncorking bottles. directly or indirectly. It does not matter what the activity is: lying in bed. in insisting upon "treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual. the great Nobel Prize physiologist. standing up. However we go through any or all these activities. "To take a step is an affair not of this or that limb solely. Adopting the Technique does not require you to embrace a new religion or far-out philosophy. ease and endurance in everything you do—even sleeping." he wrote. opening and shutting doors. "but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment. casual or major. the effects can afford relief in a very wide range of ailments that are caused. reaching to a shelf. the whole psychophysical man. sitting down. walking. once praised Alexander for his discovery. for everything we do. getting in and out of automobiles.
The object is not to learn all the proper combinations of 18 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . you simply abuse yourself in another manner. as from a twisted ankle. If you are slumped down. Bad use means employing the body in a haphazard way: one part of the body compensates at random. however. Indeed. Good or bad. Some parts of the spinal cord will then experience more pressure than others. You do so presumably to protect the injured area by immobilizing it. everything we do in life manifests itself in the way we "use" ourselves. Good use means moving the body with maximum balance and coordination of all parts so that only the effort absolutely needed is expended. and that causes malfunctioning of the parts of the body serviced by them. So in this attempt to gain desirable results forcibly. you unconsciously tighten the painful area and often other parts of the body as well. the only possible result is that while you may be lengthening some muscles. the pressure of the body being supported by them is not evenly shared. for unless the vertebrae are stacked evenly. it provides enough room for your organs so that your breath can massage them. you're putting unnecessary pressure on the organs so that they can't function as well. whenever you move without awareness. It sometimes happens that when you experience pain anywhere. If you try simply to push yourself erect. It's the same thing with your spine. for the movement of another in order to maintain balance and stability.ment and rest constitute the particular use (Alexander's word) that we make of ourselves. arthritic joints or an upset stomach. When your body is erect. you will be shortening others drastically. Circulation is slowed down. these conditions of excessive muscular tension are likely to exist. Sometimes nerves are pinched. What Is Good Use? The key concept of "use" is perhaps the easiest way to explain the Alexander Technique. and usually inefficiently. but in fact this new excess tension in the joints and muscles will slow down circulation and actually prevent your body from healing itself.
You are not a statue to be propped about in various juxtapositions to meet the changing requirements of whatever you are engaged in. Forget the paragons of close-order drill in the Marine Corps or the symmetrical ranks of the chorus line at the Folies Bergère.muscular action needed for all that you do and then try to think of them constantly as you move. you are again caught up in movement. you must at the outset dismiss from your mind all shining examples of good posture. or when you stand poised at the head of the stairs. And your customary use of yourself will reappear immediately. Such a course is both impossible and unnecessary. is continuous and involves both physical and mental fatigue. with its accompanying hollow in the back. no matter what kind. however. It is in fact quite absurd to think of attaining some ideal posture and then clinging to it through all your subsequent activity. the word might apply on the rare occasions when you take a stance before coming into a room. For when they depart the parade grounds or the music hall. Conceivably. since its absence was based on nothing more than that transient "holding-in" known as posture. The effort to hang on to some deliberate position. Unfortunately. you learn instead one Basic Movement that can control the normal flow of all your activity. they drop the elevated chest and the forward curvature of the spine. The aim of the Technique is to allow a condition of ease throughout the body without creating any new distortions in the process. there are BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 19 . or the very moment you start descending the stairs. though. Once you have entered the room." a word that ought to be jettisoned because it in no way corresponds to the conditions of real life. So in learning the Alexander Technique. leathernecks and chorines alike let go of these strenously maintained body attitudes. You Are Not a Statue Making good use of yourself by means of the Technique must never be equated with the static thing known as "posture. Through the Alexander Technique. In the ordinary work of walking and living.
When you are not slumped. Ideally. This forces you to breathe with your upper chest rather than with your lower ribs and diaphragm. More air can then pass in and out of the lungs. more waste materials are cleansed 20 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . However. You will not be asked to memorize the "right" pose for every possible body position (sitting. Second. it may be well to state flatly what the Alexander Technique is not. the positions involved in darning a sock would require a whole lifetime of memorization. it would be different for every person on this planet because each human body is different. If you slump even slightly. No Poses To forestall any possibility of error. there is no "right" pose for any position. each illustration should be provided by stroboscopic photography or some other form of action picture. do not look upon them as static poses or positions to be imitated. the mere act of getting out of a chair takes the body through more than a hundred positions. standing and so on) and then go through life using these and only these poses. They are intended only as a guide or pointer to the action described. more room is provided in the chest cavity. No Positions. and. Think of them as having been extracted from some ongoing movement. How to Look at the Pictures When you consult the photos that accompany the directions in this book. to prevent the least trace of confusion. and even if there were. your lung capacity is thereby diminished.people who do indeed seem to be trying to preserve just such a rigid and invariant attitude through all that they do. First of all. the blurry effects of such an attempt at authenticity would nullify the purposes of useful and simple instruction. The Breath of Life A vital function of our body that is impaired by bad use is breathing. as a result.
from your body. With the increase in the freedom of your breathing machinery, the quality of your voice can improve.
Let It Happen
Good breathing is integral to the Alexander Technique. This does not mean that you will need to practice it in the form of separate and isolated breathing exercises. As you begin to correct your faulty use, excess muscular tension will disappear. With the release of that tension, the action of your ribs and diaphragm in breathing will automatically take care of itself. As you progress, you may find yourself yawning or emitting deep sighs. Let them happen, for they come involuntarily and are an excellent sign that you are getting rid of excess tension. You will find that breathing supports movement at the same time that movement supports breathing. This natural and inevitable orchestration of the two is very different from superimposing some artificially learned breathing pattern upon your movements. Make sure you don't hold your breath. Don't try to do anything. Let it happen.
Your Breathing Improves
Notice, when talking, whether you are breathing in through your nose or your mouth. Give yourself time to breathe. It is helpful on occasion to close your lips and allow the air to come in through your nose when you need breath. This helps to release any tightness in the throat. Many of us develop the habit of gulping or sucking in air. This tenses the throat and is accompanied by a downward pull of the head. But when you don't collapse your chest and pull down, a slight vacuum is created in the lungs, which pulls in the air for you. When you breathe normally in this way, every time stale air leaves your lungs, new air will automatically come back in. Through the Alexander Technique, you can learn to leave your breathing mechanism— your body—alone to function freely and without effort. BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 21
How We Got This Way
To be sure, in this misguided quest, the breathingexercisers and the posture-builders may really be seeking some of the benefits that are achieved by the Alexander Technique. The grace and naturalness that the Technique imparts to you will be highly noticeable. Whenever you use it, your entire body will be more erect—your chest is not collapsed, your torso does not settle in on itself. As you continue to practice, an improvement in muscle tone occurs. If such are the blessings reaped through making good use of oneself, why are they so deplorably lacking in most of us? What has gone wrong? Why so much grief physically and mentally? It is the burden of civilization's advance, Alexander believed, that has brought upon us our present deteriorated condition. Today, instead of adapting our bodies to a slowly changing terrain, we capriciously adapt a fast-changing environment to arbitrary standards of comfort (even taste). Through current upheaval, the one thing that has remained essentially the same is the structure of the human body. Prior to the development of technology, changes in the world around us took place over a span of millions of years, slow enough for us to keep pace through subtle, unconscious alterations in the body itself. But our restless civilization has brought about a revolution in our surroundings so rapid that this process of gradual development has been quite outdistanced. As a result, the world we know now is completely foreign to the one to which human beings long ago adjusted. Our life-style has become a hybrid interaction of a body, originally adapted to primitive survival, with an environment of elevators, mattresses, automobiles and comfy chairs. Our physical and social universe is radically different, and our physical equipment has been impaired in its responses to the new demands thrust upon it by contemporary living. We have to make intelligent use of ourselves,
22 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
said Alexander, if we want to meet the new conditions effectively.
Three Easy Tests
To illustrate the degenerative influence that civilized living has exerted upon the human organism, Alexander proposed three simple tests: (You are requested to interrupt your reading for a moment and carry out the following three experiments.) 1. Move your head without your shoulders. 2. Open your mouth without tilting your head back. 3. Turn out your toes without first shifting your heels. While doing each test, be alert and sensitive in registering how you move so you may catch the unnecessary movement involved.
See for Yourself
In quite the same spirit of experiment, you may now begin to notice, in the course of your daily activity, how you go about handling objects. Next time you brush your teeth, for example, stay alert and observe just how heavy the toothbrush is, how much energy is required to lift it and keep it in your hand. How much pressure is needed to brush? In the toothpaste commercials on television, it sometimes appears as though the people are trying to brush the teeth right out of their mouths. (See Fig. 8, p. 66.) You can make similar observations when you sit down to write a letter. With a little try-and-see, you can tell how much strength is actually required to hold onto the pen and get the ink to flow onto the paper. Once you consider how you actually go through any activity, you can begin to affect a change in your performance of it.
BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 23
emotional and mental. the expenditure of energy in animal movement is exquisitely attuned to the requirements of what needs to be done. Observe even a domestic animal. 24 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . No overdoing. And it is this. however. which blocks. successfully defends itself by exerting very slight movements to deflect the thrusts and feints of a champion swordsman. We are not about to rejoin the lower animals or "go primitive." There is. defeats and frustrates whatever we may intend on every level of our existence—physical. But the answer to the perilous misfunction that has befallen mankind through the anxiety and stress of modern living cannot be to call a halt to civilization. and you will see a creature completely relaxed yet still capable of making sudden. and which is the essence of the Alexander Technique. In curing himself of his loss of voice by noting the slight pulling backward and down of his head. 'Alexander uncovered the whole pattern of bad use. It is this same harmful pattern of involuntary preparation which is involved in everything we do. which we will learn in this book. AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT UPWARD DIRECTION. The road to the recuperation of our diminished faculties. What is more. relying on animal instinct. The human antagonist is baffled by the perfect efficiency of the beast's innate responses. definite movements.The Road to Take Animals in the wild miss out on the satisfactions. prevents. a sane solution to our problem. but they are likewise spared its debilitating side effects. cultural advantages and triumphs of civilization. like a cat or a dog. the German writer Heinrich von Kleist makes this point by describing how a chained bear. They have no price to pay. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR WHOLE BODY. which accompanied formal recitation. In a famous allegory. no underdoing. more than anything else. may be enunciated as follows: AS YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT. at rest.
You are not called upon to run miles or to lift heavy weights. if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity. There are no exercises in this book. in the deepest sense. Not an Exercise But first a word about a word. the calisthenic approach stands in direct opposition to the Alexander Technique. and everywhere else in this book where a movement or action is given. The mere performance of this simple movement can." can be performed more effectively and with much greater benefit once you learn the Basic Movement and apply its principle to them. joint-wrenching gyrations of any kind. that the strenuous and repetitive exertions popularly known as "phys. Nothing tiresome will be required of you. personal happiness. It is true. ed. This distinction is especially important because. 25 . the word always refers to some movement or action of the utmost simplicity. as we shall see in the following chapter. It is in no way related to muscle-snapping. put you on the road to a new life of health. however. The word "movement" as used here has nothing to do with the 1-2-3-4! 1-2-3-4! calisthenics you did in gym class.Chapter 4 The Basic Movement You are now ready to learn the Basic Movement that incorporates the Alexander principle in a form you can practice whenever you wish. physical freedom and. In the Basic Movement.
or whatever your game may be. 26 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Whether you play golf or tennis. the sooner you will experience a new lightness and ease and a sense of real assurance in whatever you may be doing. It provides.The same applies to those more skilled and motivated forms of calisthenics which we call sports. swim or bowl. The Basic Movement Exploring Yourself You may carry out this movement either while seated or standing. a guideline to follow: a new way of thinking and moving. We shall do it sitting. rather. No trance: eyes open. Some Olympic rowers. are presently learning the Alexander Technique because it makes a real difference in crew performance. Next follow the instructions for the Basic Movement itself. The sooner you apply to any normal activity—such as tying your shoe or lifting a bag of groceries—the Basic Movement of letting your head move up and letting your body follow. This moment of selfobservation is presented under the heading "Exploring Yourself. it can undergo amazing improvement after you have bettered the use of your body in pursuing it. It is not to be repeated mindlessly in hopes of programming yourself into some automatic routine that has nothing directly to do with daily living. How to Start The Basic Movement is preceded by a brief inspection of your total condition while you carry out the action in your customary or habitual manner. for example. Turn your head to look around you." and the same format is used as a preliminary to every other movement or action in this book.
2. This does not mean that your body twists and turns with your head. (Figs. crackling sounds in your spine? Is your breathing slowed or stopped? The Basic Movement While turning your head slowly from one side to the other in order to survey the room. 5. 7. then forward to look down at the floor. tip it back to look up at the ceiling.See the room. Turn it from side to side. 6. the following clarification of the main words used should give you even more success the next time you do it. then tip it down to look at the floor. Notice if it brings up and aligns your body. add the Basic Movement: move your head up and away from your torso and let your body follow. Your Whole Head You must learn to think of your head as three- THE BASIC MOVEMENT 27 . (Figs. but that it is allowed to delicately lengthen during your head movement.) The upward direction will keep you from cramping your neck throughout these movements.) Now that you've gone through the Basic Movement once. Next. 8.) Remember to keep your eyes open and looking. so that your neck lengthens above your shoulders instead of craning forward or jamming back. Continue to allow your whole head to move up and away from your body while you perform the turning movement. What do you notice about the turning of your head? Do you feel any tense or tight muscles in your neck? Does your body twist about when you turn your head? Do you hear any popping. 4. Tip your head to look up at the ceiling.3. Notice if this upward direction of your head affects the smoothness and ease of the side-to-side motion. (Figs. 1. continuing to let your head ease up. Allow your whole body to follow the upward direction of your head.
From side to side. 2.1. 3. Easing upward and away as you turn your head. 28 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Beginning from a usual slump.
6. Easing upward. And tip it forward. As you tip your head back. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 29 . 5.4.
7. sides. Cramping your neck unnecessarily. Also. 9. The fact is that the spine in your neck is very near the center of your neck. the diameter of your vertebrae is larger than that of a silver dollar—not the size of a nickel or a quarter. not just along the back of it as many imagine. you will understand that you do not need to hold your head up. 8. you will be less likely to jut it forward. (Fig. 10. When you are directed to move your head.dimensional. 30 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . including the back. this means your whole head. (Fig.) When you remember that your chin is part of your head. It is important that you realize how substantial a support your neck provides for your head.) Often people have a tendency to lead movements with their chin. the neck is sturdy and the head rests easily on that large base as it moves. With this in mind. top and front (your face). thus pulling your head back and down.
10. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 31 . Jutting the chin forward needlessly. The whole head.9.
13.) However. includes your shoulders and ends at your hip joints. You will probably experience some sort of change or notice some difference. of course.) Remember to think of your whole body as three-dimensional. you will find that your body will automatically want to follow that upward movement. On Your Way Repeat the Basic Movement and see what happens. Simple as this may seem. that direction is. Perhaps you'll be aware that you were pushing 32 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig.) Above all. 11. remember that upward always applies to movement—wherever the top of the spine happens to be pointing—and is not a fixed position.Your Whole Body "Body" refers to your whole torso. It begins at the base of your neck. (Fig. back and front. When you are sitting or standing. People tend to think of only one dimension when allowing their body to move upward: either their front or their back. up toward the ceiling. 12. We're aiming for as much flexibility and ease as possible. If you remember this connection. causing unnecessary effort. including sides. your body must follow. "upward" is where the top of your spine points. Because your torso is connected to your head. when you allow your head to move upward. (Fig. their body will curve forward or backward. As a result. and the moving of your torso up from the hips. Upward directs a positive action in order to prevent the usual negative action of pulling the head back and down and slumping. It means the moving of your head up and away from your body. the bottom line of your buttocks. Your entire torso must be considered and no part forgotten. as you lean your body to the side. you must not forget it. in following the instructions. The Upward Direction "Upward" does not necessarily mean ceilingward.
The whole body.11. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 33 .
and the cars the remainder of the body. If it is linked up properly. Or maybe you'll feel that it is easier to move your head in the way described. In any case.yourself and using more effort to sit (or stand) than you are now. The engine represents the head. Upward. You might compare it to the image of a train. 34 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . there will be no time lag between the movement of the cars and engine. 73. The Instant Train The movement of the body following the head is fundamental to the Alexander Technique." 12. although the engine always begins the movement of the train with its forward impetus is transmitted almost simultaneously to each car. Or as Alexander once paradoxically described the movement: "All together one after another. you will have begun the process of keeping your eyes open and observing how you move.
on the order of mil- THE BASIC MOVEMENT 35 . It is a single adjustment.How to Succeed Without Really Trying Most people learning something new are eager to discover the "right" way to do it. external show. Here. The lengthening of your neck when you move your head upward is tiny. obvious. there are no "right" positions. you are not required to take up any new position in order to correct your misuse. far-reaching consequences. a very subtle and continuous movement of the head upward "only an infinitesimal amount" (as Alexander wrote from England to a man in America who was learning the Technique on his own). though. The Basic Movement is a first-class example of the way a very simple adjustment in the use we make of ourselves can have tremendous. What matters is that you improve the process of how you move. For as we have seen in the preceding chapter. The Basic Movement is accomplished without any big.
36 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . However. They strain their necks mightily. It is perhaps part of our American credo to believe that only prodigious feats can produce worthwhile results. but you will feel it in every bone of your body. some people are reluctant to believe that anything remarkable can result from the Alexander Technique unless they do something that demonstrates huge effort. is one case where the big results come from a tiny change. Here. though. they try to become human giraffes. But no neck-stretching whatever is required! Just a very slight movement of the head upward from the body will do the trick. Your ruler may not detect the difference.limeters.
Some of these bestow considerable good upon us. left-right activity most of us associate with physical education. The Trouble with Physical Exercises After visiting the gym of a leading exercise teacher in Australia one day. "There was a crooked man. they would continue to do so throughout their physical exertions. They are not likely to change our condition for the better. This is because they have been designed with a very different objective from that of ordinary calisthenics.Become a Whole Person The Basic Movement you have just learned. are clearly of a very different order from the strenuous push-pull. "and he walked a crooked mile. Alexander became convinced that such training would never meet the needs of people who came there in quest of physical development. and the seven supplementary Actions that will follow in Part II. If they used themselves badly in ordinary life. any exercises we do to get in shape will likewise be carried out in a manner that is harmful. 37 . If we comport ourselves in a manner that is harmful. the repeated and accentuated performance of the prescribed movements—thus badly executed—increased the damage they were already doing themselves." Just so. Much the same is true of the numerous varieties of physical manipulation and massage that are applied to our bodies. In fact. updown." the well-known nursery rhyme tells us.
through alleviating treatment of this kind." ludicrously askew). but his trouble will surely recur if the error in his swing is not corrected. Perhaps a golfer can find. some welcome temporary relief from the pains and aches caused by a faulty swing. driving a car. Another person may be oblivious of a tendency to lift her chin and jut it forward (until she sees herself on television). How often have you driven from point A to point B without noticing what lies between or even how you got to point B. We cannot perceive the faulty way we are using ourselves because it has come to "feel right. The Trance in Which We Live Unlike conventional exercise and manipulation. for example. Most of the time we operate our bodies on a subconscious level. Moreover. a person may carry one shoulder higher than the other and never notice (were his shoulders to be set level for him. 38 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . so too has our sensory awareness gradually adjusted to them. think back to the last time you borrowed an automatic car and reached down for gears that weren't there. We unfold the whole repertoire of our daily activity with little attention to how we are doing what we are doing. as these bad habits have developed little by little. if you are accustomed to a standard shift. We continue wearing ourselves out and tearing ourselves apart from day to day because we remain in deep ignorance of our bad tension habits until we reach a crisis of pain or run into some drastic physical or emotional trouble. Consider. In this half-conscious state in which we operate. sore ligaments or illness—gets through. the Alexander Technique coordinates conscious thought with action in order that you may deal with yourself. we pay scant heed to the constant flow of information that is being communicated by our bodies." We simply don't get true messages from our bodies anymore. Thus. a muscle cramp. Or again.but their intention is not to teach a better use of ourselves. they would now feel "wrong. Only the very gross or screaming message—a headache.
and although my foreign accent retains the specific density of pea-soup. yet perceive my own voice as if it were free from it. says Koestler. Perhaps no one has given a sharper and more disquieting picture of it than the writer Arthur Koestler. caused by a confusion between the event as intended and the event as it really happens? How. according to Koestler. but this discrepancy is masked from us by the process of hearing what we intend and not what we are in fact uttering. I have a good ear for other people's accents. I was virtually unaware of this till I first listened to my voice on a recorded broadcast. and. He offers himself as an example: "I am of Hungarian origin. therefore. All this occurs." So too may our singing be stridently out of tune and yet sound just fine to us until a musical accompaniment pulls us back on the track. because in the perception of one's own voice." The Crown of the Senses So how do we defeat this tendency toward what might be called a kind of wish-fulfillment in our senses. The main component of what we perceive is the sound we think we are projecting. The same applies also to our gestures and movements. There may be a world of difference between what we think we hear and our performance as heard by others. "The clumsy gesture is screened off from awareness by the direct impact of the image of the intended graceful movement on perception. People who listen for the first time to the sound of their voice played back on a tape recorder usually get a shock.Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves There is still another factor at work in this universal unfamiliarity with ourselves and our functioning. meets the problem by calling BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 39 . the actual acoustic production plays a subordinate part. do we get rid of the bad habits that plague us? The Alexander Technique. however defective and self-defeating they may be. remarks Koestler. in short. all the Actions in this book for learning it.
" Since it is essential in the practice of the Alexander Technique." though actually its sense organs may be found not only in the muscles. This enricher of the whole person is considered by some connoisseurs and gourmets of good physical condition to be nothing less than "the crown of the senses. It is from this sense that we are continually receiving knowledge of the gestures we make and of the pressures or tensions anywhere in our body.upon a faculty we all possess but often overlook because it is not one of the so-called "five senses" we usually talk about. It is by means of this sense that we remain aware of the position of every part of our body even when our eyes are closed. jugglers or sculptors. but in the tendons and joint membranes as well. Whenever we admire the seemingly effortless coordination in the movements of a great athlete." the distinguishing mark of superb physical condition. but in calling upon this faculty. It is the kinesthetic sense that supplies the information we need. one speaker even accused the others. of trying to "unscrew the inscrutable. the development of this sense underlies the entire program set forth in this book. In order to ensure that we are using our bodies properly. it is deplorably lacking in a very great number of us. It is sometimes called the "muscle sense. we do not have to know the names of our muscles or how to locate them on a chart. We use it to assess the range and force of our movements and also in adapting ourselves to the weight of anything we lift. Clearly evident in people like circus aerialists. At a UNESCO conference on brain mechanisms and awareness. a real chance is offered for the enrichment of our entire organism." It is not really that inscrutable. It is not one of the original five long ago listed by Aristotle. or the agile ease and poise of a friend in the way he handles himself in all the ordinary activities of life. we are paying tribute to it. Most everyone knows something at least about this faculty. in their concern with it. 40 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . or the "kinesthetic sense" as it is called. "Kinesthetic" is a cross between the words "kinetic" (motion) and "esthetic" (feeling) and means "feeling motion.
He called it "the warp of the sensation-fabric—the personality's dynamic index of its body.S. Virtually every branch of that movement makes some use of body awareness. Whole Person There are always two ways a person can learn to carry out any action.We can feel what we are doing and. has come very much to the foreground in the U. clear idea of ourselves in action. however. we can increase the reliability of our kinesthetic sense and establish a new standard of good use. Through the sensitive practice of the Basic Movement and the seven Actions which build upon it." The effective practice of the Alexander Technique makes it possible to receive increasingly subtle messages from within. It was. George V. One way is to focus on the single part of the body that actually does the work. The wise and respected New England medical educator Dr. by no means entirely forgotten in earlier American efforts to promote physical and emotional fitness." One trouble. Dearborn pointed out. N." heralded by Alexander. in this way. The other way is to use the BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 41 . is that the much stronger sense experiences of light and color may drown out this subtler experience. This in turn produces a harmonious interplay of all our faculties and thereby brings about the first visible fruit of our growing kinesthetic development: good muscular coordination. as Dr. Part Person vs. Discover a World Within The "crown of the senses. during the past decade due to the popular rise of the human potential movement. sometimes so completely that many intelligent people go through their days "wholly ignorant even of the essential existence of these warpthreads in the fabric of our conscious life. get a good. Dearborn always emphasized the important place that the kinesthetic sense holds in the life of every human being.
natural integrating mechanism of the whole body. his body may then compensate inefficiently to keep its balance. but must see whatever they look at. From moment to moment. The second way of performing an action is to involve your whole person in it. You will learn directly the benefits of this regular experience of complete personal harmony. he may unwittingly raise his shoulder. Do not hold your breath from a sense of strain. be open to any and every message of feeling that comes to you from the various parts of your body. all parts included and coordinated to perform the action. This means using the Basic Movement. Rather. physically-mentally unified Technique you gain from these Actions. how it feels and how it affects a person to live by means of the unique. Staying in the Moment In carrying out the Actions that follow. So he swings his arm as best he can. a person wanting to throw a ball will find that he must swing his arm. This does not mean exerting effort throughout your entire organism in order to swing your arm. For example. and when he hoists his shoulder. enables you to allow this total pattern. you swing your arm in a manner that allows your whole body to be balanced and your energy to be directed effectively. Your eyes must not become glazed. any number of things can happen that will cause more effort than necessary. during the whole time you devote to an Action. He has no real awareness of the rest of himself. It is the kinesthetic sense which. the Basic Movement. 42 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . to control whatever you do. With the first method. You will then discover for yourself what it means in actual practice. in time. keep alert. Because there are so many possible combinations of tension.
lithe movement and springy step belie their actual age. that the force of gravity. That gravity does indeed provide a persistent and unvarying element in man's ecology there can be no doubt. it plays a major role in whatever we do. However. it has become a prevalent sign of our era. down. unequal to the combat. we tend to disregard or forget this reassuring evidence of our senses. it is self-evident that all our movements and activities are subject to gravity's pull. is now surprisingly common at a much earlier time of life. down until finally. working against us through all the years of our life. Like air." no longer related to income group or social status and every bit as typical of men as of women. That much is certainly true. pulls us down. But what about the rest of the theory? THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 43 . what used to be known as "dowager's hump. We have all encountered at one time or another those rare men and women whose upright bearing. widely accepted at present. Since our body consists of mass. stoop and wither before the onslaught of advancing years. An eyesore and a handicap. we are done in by it. We continue instead under the spell of the rather sinister and frightening idea. Indeed. elastic lineaments.Chapter 6 The Technique as a Way to Stay Young The youthful manner and attractive bearing attained through the Alexander Technique should dispel once and for all the conviction that men and women must inevitably bow down. sunshine and other more familiar elements.
as on earth. we regain that lost stature. The skylab astronauts gave us yet another glimpse of this force's baneful effects when they emerged—after months of living outside it—in a remarkably unkinked condition. it is the indomitable force which defeats us in the end. As bipeds. . Gravity has slowly squashed them to the ground. people actually lose about half an inch in height. unceasing pull upon us of this antagonistic force has been assigned responsibility for a very great number of the woes of aging. all this is the price we pay for standing erect. In this view. in every beat of our hearts. which lays us on our death bed and lowers us to the grave. According to the biologist D'Arcy W. the quadruped is more fortunately constructed for resistance to gravity than we are. and thus being permitted to straighten out. . we find ourselves inextricably locked in a lifelong struggle. and the problem is one that has been with us ever since the forepaws of our prehistoric ancestors left the ground." The Upright Creature Supposedly. Down. which was partly the result of not being pulled down. it is felt "in every movement of our limbs. we seem peculiarly ill-equipped for maintaining an upright position. The unflinching. Studies have shown that between getting out of bed in the morning and getting back in at night. when we lie in a position parallel to the ground and thus alter the effects of the ubiquitous pull. Thompson." and "it leaves its mark in sagging wrinkles. During sleep. down . pitting human strength against gravity's relentless power with no chance of winning. For 44 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . But the cumulative results of a lifetime of unequal struggle can be seen in some bent-over and hobbling older people who have lost many inches. down. drooping mouth and hanging breasts.Why We Shrink According to a popular view. it works its malign influence upon us. without let-up or cease. Throughout the day. They had even gained in height (and lost at the waist).
Our structural frame is an intricate system of articulated levers—bones and joints— that are held and moved by our muscles and tendons. how—in this view—can we hope to contend with gravity's pull? We are compelled to oppose its force by sheer muscular power. two-legged human race. Standing or sitting. These muscles are reflexively maintained in a state of tonus— partially contracted and ready for work—except when the body is lying completely horizontal. However. but far from ideal for steadying our weight. Physiologically. like an inverted pyramid. Richard Selzer totaled up the outward woes he thinks indicate that our erect stance THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 45 . Just standing up is a kind of acrobatic triumph involving an exact balance of varying degrees of contraction and relaxation in more than two hundred pairs of muscles. in respiration and circulation as well as in the nervous system. the spine and the network of muscles and ligaments. Dr. And strain means injury. the greatest strain is sustained by the musculo-skeletal structure that keeps us erect. repercussions of the conflict are felt in all the other major systems of the body. with our heavy head and shoulders weighing down the skeletal structure. Mortal Lessons. deformation and distortion depending upon the disparity between the pull and each person's total power of response to it. the weight of our inner organs is carried high above our center of gravity. This situation is said to account for many of the chronic progressive and degenerative conditions which afflict the falteringly upright. we appear to be top-heavy. In a fierce book. Must We Fall Apart? While gravity depresses all the elements of the body. Failure or defeat in any of these components adversely affects the overall struggle. perhaps an ingenious device for cushioning shock. curved in several places.one thing. Our spine is flexible. The immediate battleground for humans versus gravity may be discerned throughout the musculo-skeletal system whose mainstays are the pelvis.
They move in a superb manner quite naturally. their actions are beautifully free and easy. The arches of our feet fall. From an evolutionary viewpoint. feeling. He found that body chemistry as well as the regulatory and coordination mechanisms of the body are all affected. the human species. 46 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . no strain in the back or anywhere else. Mental confusion. According to Dr. and before they are physically corrupted. mood. Our flesh pushes itself through into hernias. which is so popular today. Man is a perfect match for gravity. is both one-sided and incomplete. piled one atop the other. We inherit an easy good use of our bodies. which enables us to deal handily with the earth's pull. In the first two or three years of life as they gain mobility. attitude and behavior may also figure in the generalized failure of our adaptation to the ordinary strain of being on the earth's surface. Or watch a baby turn its head. our vertebrae. How We Conquer As it happens. Selzer. This reflex of good use can be observed in infants. it pivots smoothly without tension. It does not fully or accurately represent man's complex relationship to the downward pull he experiences from the earth. must have evolved a suitable equipment and the correct mechanism for biped locomotion. Our blood gathers in hemorrhoids and varicose veins. In the very long history of walking erect. the adventure of assuming an upright posture would probably never have been sustained if man had not become capable of it. the extreme and scary picture we have just looked at. And the mechanism is by now genetic. slip.cannot successfully resist the pressure imposed upon us by gravity. buckle and wear out. Observe a baby come to sitting position by itself. Our hip joints grind to a stop. We obviously had to develop a way of neutralizing the effects of gravity in order for our life to have continued on earth. the whole body is in a system of balance. as Professor Tinbergen has pointed out.
we shorten our necks and pull our chests down. detailed studies of this natural mechanism have offered a technical explanation in anatomical and physiological terms. In effect. (Fig. We sense a new way of moving. The correct messages from one body part to another (coordination) are relayed and interpreted properly. different from our previous experience of tension-filled activity. We actually feel heavier because of pressure put on the joints by excess muscular tension. and gravity merely compounds the problem. with its energy and movement directed up through the top of that column—the whole torso following the head—the body will work efficiently and flexibly.) In this condition. the reflex of our movement will be interfered with and muscle will be pitted against muscle.). it is we who work against ourselves. 2. If the head does not initiate. as with a leaning column or an uneven tower of blocks. 1. some form of additional support—in the case of the body. what has been discovered is that when all the body parts are balanced and integrated. In attempts to control ourselves. THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 47 . Only those muscles which are essential to a particular action are used in that action. We no longer have to depend upon large jolts or shocks from tensing muscles to tell us if something is happening. the reflex system of the body is allowed to work. A jutting part here or there creates an imbalance and. or shorten and arch our backs. And it is because of these tense habits that it so often feels as if gravity must be working against us. things go wrong. When arranged naturally in a sort of flexible column. tense muscles—is needed to keep it standing. The movement of the head leads and influences the movement of the body so that all parts (muscles) are coordinated and work in a harmonious system of contraction and relaxation. the human species is constructed in a way to resist the pull of gravity effortlessly in keeping itself erect. When we do not trust our body's ability and interfere with this natural reflex of ease.It Goes by Itself Careful. the body column will be out of kilter (Fig. Rather.
48 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . 2. The body column out of kilter.1. Energy and movement directed upward.
Such excess tension is unnecessary." But long before we heard these and similar unhelpful exhortations.Never a Feeling of Strain We meet gravity by keeping our "balance. And this muscular release goes a long way toward explaining why the Technique is effective in eliminating superfluous tension. ourselves. inherited form of behavior. The Alexander Technique. Even when we think we're relaxed. Most of us consider ourselves balanced when we stand (otherwise how could we?)." "Don't slouch. Our bone structure (skeleton) is so finely organized a system of arches and supports that it takes only a tiny contraction of muscles to maintain us in the "work" of standing. through the tasks we were called upon to perform before we THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 49 . Most of us are still trapped by the distant voices of parents and teachers repeating: "Stand up straight." and an elementary definition of the word is: the state of not having to hold onto something in order to maintain a position. our superb natural functioning had already vanished because of the way we were handled as infants. A Future Without Fear Proper adjustment to gravity in the way we stand. through the models we encountered and imitated in early family life and school. walk and move." "Or "Little girls don't sit like that. The magnificent engineering of the human body does not require it. muscles throughout our body are tensing—holding on—in an effort to keep us as we are. The new equilibrium gives relief and freedom to dozens of muscles that were previously engaged full time in "holding on" to maintain a condition that is at best a rough and hapless approximation of true balance. is obviously an old." "Your posture is terrible. bringing the head into real physical balance on top of the spine. But in fact we usually are holding onto something—namely. produces this desired alignment of the total structure. then. the body following. Our misuse of ourselves in all that we do is the consequence of modern living.
50 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . The upward movement of the head followed by the body can free us to initiate whatever we choose to do in whatever manner we choose to do it. we can regain our easeful place on the planet and go confidently forward with the concerns that matter in our life. By means of the Alexander Technique. we can call a halt to our customary interference with the body's natural reflexes and thus facilitate our antigravity response. The foreshortening of the back neck muscles with which we initiate our every act.had the physical capacity or readiness. has no reason to dread that the years ahead are going to pull him or her down in a decline of slow surrender to gravity. In the way we misuse ourselves. means that tension and gravity are operating in concert. The youngster now starting out. By means of the Alexander Technique. We can reverse that trend once and for all the moment we decide to change our bad use of ourselves and reinstate our pristine grace. and through our adaptation to the furniture and paraphernalia with which we lived. or the adult of middle or advanced age. and the entire trunk and spine are slowly compressed. This is why the popular picture of gravity as inescapable master and despoiler is for so many of us the stark truth. and which Alexander pinpointed as the root of our difficulties. We are no longer the helpless playthings or victims of a hostile force from below. The effect is too strong for the body to resist. But this need not be. we violate our own natural mechanism for meeting the downward pull exerted on all forms of terrestrial life.
P A R T II The Practice of the Technique How to Do It .
The Seven Actions An Effortless Program The following chapters present a simple step-by-step program of seven Actions for learning the Alexander Technique. Each step consists of three parts: (1) a preliminary exploration of your personal condition before you begin. No Leotards The Actions in this program are simple. and (3) suggestions for how it may be applied to everyday life. are extensions and developments of the Basic Movement. No Dumb-Bells. but all the Actions. (2) the Action itself. You can do them anywhere: at home or at work. Often the Basic Movement within the Action description is italicized. UPWARD DIRECTION. which was given in Chapter 4. (When the weather permits. Keep in mind these and other italicized instructions throughout the Action as they are essential to the success of your experimenting. doing 52 . AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT It is advisable. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR WHOLE BODY. to refer to it before undertaking a new movement. They do not employ anything in the way of athletic equipment or apparatus. That movement contains the key to the whole T e c h n i q u e . which will show you how to apply the basic principle to all your movements. w h i c h as we h a v e s e e n i s : AS YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT. Each Action leads to the next according to a definite plan. therefore. in your kitchen or office. without exception.
them outdoors will provide the additional benefit of fresh air.) The Actions require no gym shorts, or leotards or other special outfits. Street clothes, office clothes—any clothes you happen to be wearing—are fine, and no change of apparel will be necessary afterward. Whatever clothes you do wear should, however, allow you sufficient leeway so that you are not restricted in your movements and do not feel hampered in your breathing. If your clothes are not decently comfortable, you may want to loosen your shirt collar or open your belt a notch. Simply do whatever is needed to allow you to be freer in moving about and less confined in your breathing.
A Way to Begin
Read the instructions for each Action slowly until you have an idea of what it is. (If you prefer, have someone read the instructions aloud to you.) Then proceed to carry them out in the manner described. Sometimes the instructions are given in metaphorical language to convey what is wanted. Thus, when you are instructed to "direct your energy upward," don't worry about a scientific meaning: simply follow the instruction! You needn't do a great many Actions at one session; you may prefer to do them gradually. For example, you may do an Action for a day or so, noticing throughout the rest of the week how that particular movement appears when it shows up in your everyday activities. Then go on to the next Action. Initially, follow them in the order given, as each movement leads to the next according to a definite plan. Some people may prefer to do several a week. Be your own judge of your particular rate. Later, you can always return to a given Action and see if you can discover something more in it. However often you repeat them, you will always derive some benefit, provided the element of awareness is there. Never do them mechanically; you are not a machine. Indeed, treating yourself THE SEVEN ACTIONS 53
like a machine is the bane of what is ordinarily meant by "exercise." Paying attention to what is happening every moment of this program reeducates your senses and muscles.
For Your Enjoyment
Although a conscientious attitude is necessary, it is not necessary to drive yourself to the limits of your endurance. Indeed, that is an entirely wrong approach. It is far more beneficial to do an Action sensitively three or four times, without strain or tension, than to do it automatically many times. Remember, you are not in competition with anyone. You are doing the Action only for yourself, for your own good. If you rush through a meal, you do not give yourself the opportunity to taste what you are eating or to digest the food properly. Ill-digested movement, like ill-digested food, is less beneficial to you. You will enjoy the Actions more if they are done in a spirit of experiment and play. You should even allow yourself a little time in which to feel and enjoy the aftereffects of each Action. Do not rush from one directly into the next. Tall, short, thin, fat, lanky or padded, whatever the proportions of your body and whatever your age, there is nothing to prevent you from learning these Actions and doing them with enjoyment. You will adjust them to your own body as you go along.
Nine Rules to Follow
1. Your "head" means the whole three-dimensional globe—not just your face or chin or some other part of it. (See Fig. 9, p. 31.) 2. Your "body" means the whole torso. (See Fig. 11, p. 33.) 3. "Upward" indicates a direction, not a fixed place. (See Figs. 12, 13, pp. 34 and 35.)
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
4. Refer to the Basic Movement (pp. 26-27) each time you proceed to a new Action. 5. Perform each Action at your own pace, not in the fastest way possible. How is what matters. 6. Stay alive: Keep breathing and seeing the world around you. There is no reason to hold your breath or go glassy-eyed. 7. Do not worry about executing the Actions "correctly." It is not a question of doing them the "right way," but rather of discovering greater flexibility and freedom in your movements. 8. Breathe easily and naturally through your nose. 9. Perform each Action as though for the first time.
THE SEVEN ACTIONS 55
(Fig. don't change your position. 1. Now that you've begun to think about how you are using your head. Notice whether or not you are able to move your head more easily and let your head move up. Involve your neck muscles as needed. Do you really need to use your body as well as your neck to turn your head? Lean forward and then sit back in the chair. but don't force your head around. Note any sensations of which you are aware. Your neck will twist a little to let your head turn farther to the right or left.) While allowing your head to continue 56 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . What parts of you tense in order to move forward and then back? Do you push yourself forward instead of letting your hip joints simply hinge? Do you hold your breath? Applying the Basic Movement Still sitting. but look around the room by turning your head. such as a popping or crackling noise in your spine.Action 1 Leaning Forward and Backward Exploring Yourself Sit in a chair and turn your head from side to side and then up and down to look around the room. Let your whole head move up and away from your body and pivot on the top of your spine (top of your neck). Repeat three or four times. sore muscles or stiffness. include your body in that upward movement and lean forward.
Unnecessary pushing with your body. tip your head forward. 1. 2. reaching to turn the T. (Fig.upward and away from the top of your spine. on or off from your chair.) If you have difficulty moving without pushing. toward the floor. then let your body follow that motion. 2. LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD 57 . simply bend at the hips to lean forward. In leaning forward. Lean forward by lengthening upward. find out the difference between pushing your head up with your body and following the upward motion of your head. Try both. let your body follow upward as it leans forward in space. Applications to Daily Life Some examples of leaning forward and back: tying your shoe while seated.V. lighting someone's cigarette from a seated position and eating at the table. Keep your seat.
The next time you discover yourself in a slump.) You will also appear more graceful and eliminate the balancing act. pull down a little more than you normally would. (Fig. (Fig.Eating Soup Especially watch what happens when you eat soup. 4. 3. (Fig. 5. 6.) Probably the easiest way to eat soup is to lean forward effortlessly (by following your head up) and then let your torso curl slightly to bring your mouth closer to the bowl. The tendency is to collapse the chest and push the chin toward the bowl in order to avoid spilling the soup.) Then experience getting out of that position by first becoming aware of a real connection be- 58 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. How to Get Out of a Slump "Sometimes you just want to have a good old slump." one of my teachers would often say.) You may have tried the opposite strategy: sitting very straight and trying to balance the spoon all the way to your mouth in an effort to appear graceful.
let the upward energy continue. your body following up after it while you lean forward and then back. (See pp. Then begin to let your head move up delicately. Try reading aloud from a book and see if you can notice what you do with your head and neck. 20-22. You've achieved a little more ease just by moving. you may have noticed a change in your breathing. 3. You can do this anytime you find yourself slouching. As you talk.) Note the change that has taken place as you emerge from your slump. 4. Do you leave them free or do you pull them down? Now think of moving your head up and away from your body and letting your body follow that direction while you speak. (Fig. 7.tween your whole head and whole body. 5. LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD 59 . Stiff. The Way You Talk How you talk is affected by what you do with your head. While you have been learning to follow the upward direction of your head with your whole body. Pulling down. Easing upward. straight and awkward.) Greater freedom in breathing brings greater freedom in speaking.
You can change this by allowing your body to follow the upward motion of your head. 60 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .6. with your thumbs on the underside of your jaw. When you have difficulty moving your jaw in this way. The ease of your head also helps your lower jaw to release. it usually indicates that you hold tension there when you speak. 7. Easing upward. very gently place your fingertips on your chin just below your lower lip. To check the flexibility of your jaw. Now open and close your jaw with your hands. You are therefore using more effort than you need to for speaking. The slump. leaving the jaw muscles loose.
palms resting down. Apply the Basic Movement Place your hands on the tops of your thighs. 1. let your arms lengthen out through your fingertips. 3. continuing to pay attention to your head and body. Then bring them down again. When your arms are 61 . while you lift your arms will affect the ease and efficiency with which you can move them. Do you tense your neck or jut your chin forward? Do you lean forward or backward with your upper torso? What parts of your body besides your arms are involved in this movement? Perhaps there are other things that you'll notice. legs included. Starting with your arms at your sides. At first. 2. lift both over your head. While your neck lengthens and your body follows the upward motion of your head. do the movement easily enough to notice what you do with your body and head. Then try moving them quickly and in several different ways. later.) Move your hands along your legs toward your knees. (Figs.Action 2 Moving Arms Exploring Yourself Do this one while sitting. In other words. Leave your hands there and let your arms rest comfortably at your sides. what you do with the remainder of your body. Every part of your body is related to every other part in movement. you can try it standing. Let your head begin easing away from your body.
bend your elbows and bring your hands back to your upper thighs. Then let your arms come back down in front of you. (Fig. lift them over your head.) As with your head and body. (Figs. let your arms lengthen and let your head rest lightly on the top of your neck. 7. Applications to Daily Life What usually happens is that people shorten most of the muscles of any limb or any part of the body to move that part 62 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .straight.) Think of each shoulder moving to the side upward and outward from the body to prevent any unnecessary tightening there. 6. 5. When your hands touch your knees. shoulders or neck to move your arms. adding to it the new direction for your shoulders. Beware of pulling down or tightening your chest. 4. you needn't force your shoulders to move this way. Repeat the movement of raising your arms. although you can allow them to move. During this entire sequence.
which are shortening. While your body follows your head up. and most people do it unwittingly. Brushing Your Teeth A good example of how most people do more work than they need to is brushing teeth.or to bend a joint. you will be able to avoid a lot of excess tension that would otherwise occur in your shoulders and neck. 3. That takes a lot of extra work. 2. In the course of your daily activities. For example. Ask yourself if the energy you use is really appropriate to how light a toothbrush is and the amount of pressure you need to apply to your teeth. notice how you reach to pick up and use an object. to bend the elbow the way most of us do. By watching how you use your arms. Then we unconsciously select the proper muscle to do the bending and use that muscle to work against the rest of the muscles. let your arms lengthen. MOVING ARMS 63 . 1. pulling the upper arm toward the shoulder. That locks the elbow joint. we make a tiny jerk of the arm.
4. 64 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . 6. 5. No need to pull down and tighten.
Do a little experimenting to see how much strength is actually required to reach out to the knob and take hold of it.) Also note if you are overdoing the action by reaching out toward the door long before you get there.) There is a tendency in standing activities like this one to lock your knees. 11. (Fig. which simply adds an unnecessary restriction to your freedom of movement. MOVING ARMS 65 . give it some thought. 10. 9. Your shoulders move upward and outward.Next time you brush. (Figs. Then let your head ease up and your body follow and see if you can allow your arm to float up to the knob by lengthening out through your fingertips. Opening a Door You can make similar observations when you open a door. 8. See if you can make it easier.) 7. (Fig. Also notice what you do with your other arm and your shoulders.
Pulling down. 9. especially children. The amount of ease you have in your own body affects almost anyone you touch. The body following the head upward. Let your head move up and your arms lengthen and hold the child with the 66 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . If you are tense and nervous. think a little and notice what you are doing with yourself. a child can feel it in the way you touch him. With Children The way you use your arms in handling a young child will definitely affect how that child moves. Next time you pick up your son or daughter.8.
When you support a child with your hands in helping him to sit or stand. Also important is exactly what part of the child you hold when you lift him or help him to walk or to sit. which is maintained while the baby sits.10. Overdoing. When a six-month-old child is brought up by pulling on his arms. The amount of ease from you that reaches the child will influence him to calmer and less resistant behavior. if the child brings himself to sitting. Lengthening. MOVING ARMS 67 . an undue amount of tension is produced in his back and shoulders. support him at the torso. least amount of effort needed. Do not inject any effort into the easy movement the child already possesses. 11. he uses his whole body in a system of balances with no tension in his back or anywhere else. On the other hand.
then shoulders following. with each step forward consisting of an awkward fall on that foot. the upward movement of your head and torso will move you forward. stopping and starting several times until you feel that you have made some discoveries about your usual walk. note what part of your body begins the motion and which direction you move in first: side to side? backward? forward? Continue walking for a few minutes.) When walking.Action 3 Walking with Ease Exploring Yourself Find a room that has some open space enough to walk around in comfortably. (Figs. then head. 2. step out with your right foot and walk forward. As you let your head move upward and away from your body with your torso following. you do not need to lean or fall forward. shift your weight onto your left foot. begin to walk. From a standing position. Notice in which direction your energy moves. As you start walking again. 4. 3. bend your right knee. This will allow you to move as a unit rather than in disconnected sections—for example. Applying the Basic Movement Begin standing. hips forward. Which part of your body leads as you walk? Stop. It will help if you start 68 .) Stop and start again several times. (Figs. 1.
WALKING WITH EASE 69 . Walking with ease.2.1.
3. 70 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Moving in disconnected sections.
head dropped. Awkward. WALKING WITH EASE 71 .4. with hips forward.
with both feet under you and your weight evenly distributed. walk around the room. I discovered I was no longer pushing into my hips toward the floor on every step. infinitesimal undulation of the hips forward and back when you walk—unless you tense up and interfere with it. 6. notice whether your head continues to ease up as you walk. I felt that my feet would no longer reach the floor. Place your fingers on the front side and thumbs on your upper buttocks. there's often a tendency to pull the head back and down. I discovered my old habit had involved sinking into my hips and throwing myself off balance every time I shifted my weight from one leg to the other. To test this for yourself. (Fig. putting your hands at the spot on each hip where your leg bends.) 72 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. Avoid thinking of moving your head upward and then walking as two separate actions. You'll be pleased at the gain in lightness and ease.) Jogging and Running With any degree of speed. Each time you start. I was letting my body glide along at a constant distance from the floor while continuing to explore the act of walking. that I had to stretch my legs to get them down there. Instead. therefore. whether you start at a gallop or more gradually accelerate from a walk to a run. For once I began walking by the Alexander Technique. Applications to Daily Life My first experience with walking by means of the Alexander Technique was new and strange to me. see that you ease your head upward and allow your body to follow up after it. Notice whether your hips shift from side to side or up and down. Remember that walking and easing upward happen at the same time.) In running. 5. (There is naturally a slight.
Only when he is willing to let his head move up and his body follow. Downward pressure. Easing upward. WALKING WITH EASE 73 . which helps increase the speed and control of it. shoulders easing out.Playing Golf In golf. the upright stance provides flexibility in the shoulders and the torso and makes possible the maximum control over the swing.) This important advantage is often sacrificed in the supposed interest of power. 6. will he maintain an upright stance and his arms have the greatest flexibility possible. He will then have a true one-piece swing. it is the speed of the club head and not the force with which it is swung that makes the ball travel farthest. 8. 7. the golfer is getting in his own way. However. pressing in and down to brace himself in order to swing.) Otherwise he fears he cannot swing hard enough. (Fig. (Fig. 5. With a compacted approach. His whole body will become involved in the swing. The golfer thus compacts his body.
Lengthening upward and outward.7. 74 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .
Pulling down. WALKING WITH EASE 75 .8.
Lift and lower your right leg several times. Move your head and look around the room. let your head ease upward and away from your body and let your body follow that motion. Rest one hand on it lightly.Action 4 Moving Legs Exploring Yourself Stand next to a firm waist-level surface. 2. Now lower your leg down to the floor.) or lifting the hip of the leg being lifted. Applying the Basic Movement Still stabilizing yourself when you need to. you may use it to balance yourself during this exploration. Lift your right leg till your thigh is parallel to the floor. 4. (Fig. As your body continues upward.) Imagine a line drawn from one hip to the other and keep that line parallel with the floor. Take note of how successful you are at balancing on one leg.) Avoid sinking into the leg on which you are standing (Fig. 3. Does your right lower leg hang as freely from your knee as it can or is it tense? Do you lift or move your right hip unnecessarily? When you lower your leg. 1. bend your right knee and lift your right leg until your thigh is about parallel with the floor. (Fig. (Fig.) 76 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . do you release it and drop it easily or do you reach at the floor with your foot and tense the muscles in your leg as you lower it? Once again take note of what your head and body have been doing.
1. Lift your leg. MOVING LEGS 77 .
Then gently release that leg to the floor. then move your head and body upward as your weight shifts to that leg. it would swing like a pendulum until it lost momentum. Push your lower leg with either hand instead of using your muscles to swing it. first make sure the whole sole of your foot is touching the floor.Now let your raised leg swing forward and back freely from your knee down. It should be free enough so that if someone were to push it lightly. Lift your other leg by bending the knee while letting your head and body 78 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Before you shift any of your weight onto it.
Avoid sinking into the hip. 3. The next time you repeat lifting one of your legs. lift your leg a shorter distance so that finally you will be walking easily. MOVING LEGS 79 .continue upward. 4. Then shift your weight from the back foot to the front by moving your head away from the top of your spine and letting your body follow that upward motion over your foot. allow your foot to come to the floor in front and to the side of the foot that supports you. Lifting the hip needlessly. then gently release at the hip joint until your foot touches the floor again. On each step. The important 2. The line of the hips is parallel to the floor. Let your lower leg swing freely.
Examine your attitude toward climbing stairs.thing is to discover how to allow your body to go upward and forward over your legs instead of being carried by them like dead weight. 5. The error occurs when a person doesn't experiment with his attitude—doesn't try out easier ways to do the job. 80 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. So the direction of energy is often downward when a person climbs stairs. People have pre-set attitudes toward almost every physical task they perform. These attitudes generally involve erroneous judgment of how much effort is required to perform a task or how their bodies must work to do it well. Applications to Daily Life Walking Up and Down Stairs Many students of the Alexander Technique find that walking up or down stairs makes them realize how much less effort is needed when directing their energy upward. How much effort is necessary to get up to the next step? A typical attitude held is that a person must push downward in order to move up to the next step.) The problem occurs Downward direction 6. Upward direction.
) Walking down stairs is often done with equal inefficiency. place your foot lightly on the step and gradually straighten your leg as you follow your head upward and forward to move your body above that stair.) There is no need to keep the muscles of your knee in constant tension to serve as a brake. 7. which requires extra work in order to maintain balance and control. and the effort involved in straightening the leg with most of the body weight on it is exhausting. Easing upward. (Fig. In going up an incline. To climb stairs the Alexander Technique way. To move down a staircase. simply allow your knee to bend forward as you follow your head upward. 8. (Fig. 6. nor do you need to jump from foot to foot. you can still look down at the stairs to see where you are stepping. MOVING LEGS 81 . Avoid freezing your gaze. allowing your head to move upward and your body to follow. When you are walking up or down stairs. Pulling down. Most people place all their weight onto the forward foot before straightening the leg. 7.during the shift of weight after the foot has been lifted to the next stair. apply the same principles.8. usually because it is never approached consciously.
You may notice that as you move your ankle. Applying the Basic Movement Begin as before with your feet at least five inches apart and pointing forward in whatever position is most comfort- 82 . one at a time. Look for the same indications of freedom or tension. up and down. such as a car jack. This indicates excess tension and that you are tensing the muscles around your ankle.Action 5 Heel and Toe Exploring Yourself Sit in a chair. it moves as though it were on a ratchet. in little jerks. in the center. where does the pressure on the ball of your foot fall? Is it under your big toe. rest your feet on the floor about five inches apart and pointing forward. Notice whether or not the movement is smooth. Leave the ball and toes of your foot on the floor. When your heel comes up. Very slowly. lift each heel off the floor and put it down again. on the outside or evenly across the front of your foot. See if you are locking your ankle joint at the top of the movement—with heel as high as possible—and at the end of the movement—with foot flat on the floor. as is most desirable? Do you have to tense your thigh or calf to lift your heel? Also try slowly lifting your toes off of the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor.
HEEL AND TOE 83 . It will either become easier. Avoid contracting the muscles of your thigh by continuing to lengthen your leg as your left heel comes very slowly off the floor as far as it can. include your legs in your awareness. (Fig. The body's motions can now be consistent from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Think of your whole leg getting longer.) In order to begin and complete this movement. If you concentrate solely on your ankles to the exclusion of the rest of your body. 2. There is no set way to do it. Repeat with your other foot. you are becoming aware of how you move your ankle. release your ankle and continue lengthening your bent leg. 1. Then stand up and walk around to see what changes have occurred.) Sit comfortably. but rather to allow it to be its full length and free of tension.) Then as you let your heel very gently down to the floor. except your heel. it will be harder to move them freely. follow upward. 3. This does not mean stretching your leg. Now lift your toes off the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor. and let the movement of your ankles fit in with it. let your head ease upward and follow it with your body. let your toes come back to the floor. (Fig. But something constructive is happening. Now see what happens when you repeat this action. between your hip socket and your knee and between your ankle and your knee. then let the remainder of your foot.able. you will begin to improve your use of yourself. As you continue. Let your toes bend slightly up from the floor. Now as you let your head move upward and away from your body and allow your body to follow. Keep the ball of your foot on the ground and spread your toes. See if you can find the most efficient way (the one involving the least tension) to raise and lower your heel. be unchanged or become tiring. (Fig. Lengthen your leg all the way from heel to hip. When you understand how easing your head upward and letting your body follow affects the movement of your ankle and every other part of your body. Remain aware of the relationship between your head and body.
84 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . 1. but there is no need to focus on them except when doing this Action. now including your legs and feet. Foot flat on floor pointing forward.Applications to Daily Life Freedom in your ankles is essential for efficient and easy walking. will give you added freedom of motion. Generally. the upward direction of your head and body.
Lift your toes. 3. HEEL AND TOE 85 .2. Lift your heel.
Include your legs in the easing so that they lengthen and lighten. Instead. and allow your body to follow. which creates more pressure than is necessary. (Fig. 1. Your legs should continue to lengthen as your knees bend. let them go forward. away from your body.Action 6 Knee-Bending Exploring Yourself Stand with your feet a shoulder's width apart (from eight to eighteen inches). Applying the Basic Movement Allow your head to move delicately upward. continue to follow your head upward with your body and without tightening your legs. When you are successful with this Action.) A common tendency is to think of the knees as moving downward. keeping your body perpendicular to the ground. you will feel no pressure or strain on your knees. As your knees bend. Let your feet be as close to parallel as is comfortable. As you release the muscles around your knees. Then straighten your legs and return to the standing position. Notice what if anything you do with your head and your body. Make sure 86 . Notice where you feel any pressure on your hips or legs. Bend both knees until they are directly above your big toe. Are you bending at the hips and ankles? Repeat this until you are clear about how you are bending your knees. make sure they bend directly above each foot.
1. KNEE-BENDING 87 . Release knees forward.
No need to tilt back. but remains perpendicular to the ground. 88 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . it is part of the movement 2. (Fig. No need to lean forward. Don't let your old habits interfere with your new way of bending.). let your head and body ease upward from your legs and let your knees follow. 3. 1.you release your hip joints so that your body does not tilt backward when your hips lock (Fig.). rather. 3. or forward if needless extra effort is used in bending your hips (Fig.) Place a mirror at your side to monitor this movement. Applications to Daily Life The simultaneous bending of both knees rarely occurs by itself in everyday activity. Keep your body sense alert so that you can tell if at any point you are tensing your knees. 2. Rather than pushing your body back up with your legs.
of sitting and standing. stay upright and bend your knees to lower yourself to the level you need. Easing upward. 4. Instead of going forward by bending your back and hunching your shoulders (Fig. and do the work with their legs as they should instead of their backs. you will encounter a variation of it in the plié. knees bent. (Fig. 5. If you're a dancer. Pulling down. The greatest value of this Action is that it frees the hips and knees. a freedom most people need. 5. The act of walking is greatly influenced by the amount of flexibility in the leg joints.). Working at a low counter. When people bend to pick up things. carpentry. Knee-bending is also the most efficient way of approaching any activity in which you are standing and must lean over to work. that movement is present even though their feet may be positioned differently.) 4. doing dishes and ironing are examples of such activities. KNEE-BENDING 89 .
ACTION 7 Standing Up and Sitting Down
In Action 1, you learned how to lean forward without pushing forward. Now get up from a chair, noticing what your body must do in order to stand. When leaning forward in order to stand up, do you use more effort than when you merely lean forward in a chair? No more effort is actually needed. Now sit down from a standing position and notice what happens to the relationship of your head to your body. Do you freeze your head or any part of your body while you sit? Repeat these two Actions, noting everything that is involved in sitting and standing.
Applying the Basic Movement
Standing Up. Sit in a chair of average height. Begin by becoming aware of what you do with your head and your body. Turn your head from side to side and allow it to move up and away from your body. As you become aware of the
upward direction, lean forward by following your head with
your body. Continue following as you lean forward until your buttocks come off the chair. (Fig. 1.) As you lean forward, "upward" becomes diagonal from the chair, not skyward. As soon as your weight is on your feet, you have completed the movement.
1. Following your head upward.
STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 91
Sit back in the chair and repeat this movement several times, noticing what you do in order to come to your feet. Discover how to do the movement in one flowing motion with the least possible effort. Often people discover that they are giving a little push, a little tightening, just before they leave the chair. There are many people who at first feel that this little push is absolutely necessary but soon discover it isn't when they let their bodies follow their heads. Having made a slight improvement in the flow from sitting to getting your buttocks off the chair, go all the way to standing the next time you do it. "Upward" will continually change in relation to vertical as you fold forward. Notice whether you continue to follow your head or whether you change direction and push yourself up. (Fig. 2.) Beware of trying to swing yourself to your feet. (Fig. 3.) NOTE: When you stand, it is necessary to use your thigh muscles to some extent, so rather than concentrate on your legs, observe what you must do with your head and body to gain the most efficient use of your legs. After you have come to a standing position, your head continues upward and your body continues to follow it. There is no reason to abandon that upward direction and collapse after you have stood up. (Fig. 4.) Sitting Down. In the act of sitting, the advantage of following your head with your body is that you have control of your balance as you sit. An important idea to grasp about sitting down is that you must continue to follow your head upward with your body. If you let all your joints fold as you sit, and direct the energy upward to relieve pressure on the joints instead of tensing to keep from falling, you will not have to work as hard. As you stand in front of a chair, get your head and body going upward. As soon as you feel pressure taken off your legs, release your leg joints and let them fold. Remember to let your hips bend as well so that you lean forward as you approach the chair. (Fig. 5.) If this is confusing, stand up again, noting how far you fold forward as you stand. Sitting down is the same movement in reverse. 92 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
3. Beware of pushing. Beware of swinging up. STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 93 .2.
continue easing upward.4. 94 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Once standing.
Bending the joints to sit. STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 95 .5.
though. push down. 2. reach out with your arms or perform any other variation on the movement of standing. They go through a sequence that resembles shifting gears in a 1950 pickup. Most people drop themselves into a chair and push themselves out. knees and ankles. many people divide the movement of standing into steps: lean forward. shoot up.Applications to Daily Life Of the movements we repeat most often. But if you can learn to follow your head with your body.) Without even thinking about it. Most of us complete this action many times a day in an uncountable number of ways and positions. How many people have you seen who push their knees down with their hands in trying to stand. then folding into the chair to sit. And you can do it without the extra effort of forcing or tensing your muscles. when they actually need their legs to go up? (Fig. It is one of the best movements you can do to explore coordination of your whole body. Whichever way it is done. 96 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . you can avoid the shifts in direction and stand up in one easy flowing motion. it is all the same basic movement: bending at the hips. one that uses the whole body is the movement from standing to sitting and vice versa. straightening the joints and rebalancing the weight on the feet to stand. You will still have the flexibility to twist and turn your head.
Lie down. directly above your feet. spread-eagle fashion. Ideally. The point of it all is to teach you to let your head and body ease upward during any movement. Lie down with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. 1.) More realistically. See if you can get your knees to fall inward rather than outward. (Fig. 1.A Short Daily Routine A Time for Rest The experiments you've been doing thus far have been designed to teach you conscious control of yourself. There is one activity you can use daily to reinforce the process of lengthening in movement. Putting your feet farther apart is helpful. your knees will tend to fall toward each other. relatively quiet and can be used regularly. 97 . or outward. Begin by finding a place that is comfortable. Plan to use this space whenever you want to do this activity. your feet should be a shoulder's width apart and your knees balanced freely.
write down the things you noticed during each session. from "I have too many important things to do. As you learn to direct energy upward and to move with greater freedom. Make yourself comfortable on your back. though you'll soon be able to rest without one. A two-inch-thick pillow under your head is permissible.) As you lie there. for me to be spending time on myself. Keep your eyes open. (When you are feeling extremely tense. When you have made a change in your belief system. on body maintenance. If any of these positions creates undue pressure. You may also be able to remember all these sensations. For example: Pressure across the back of my hips Tingling in my right knee Pain in my left upper back Sensation along the left side of my neck The floor is cold on my back My breathing moves my stomach The small of my back isn't touching the floor Feeling a little angry at first Cold fingers Felt calmer at the end. feet on the floor. What is important here is that you have begun to spend a period every day. it will become easier to lie down this way. then make minor adjustments. but continue to make note of them each time. short though it may be. you may need up to twenty minutes. Simply lie there for two to five minutes. and too many responsibilities. so you can compare your awareness from one week to the next. Afterward." to 98 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . or bend them at the elbows and rest your hands comfortably on your stomach. Let your arms rest easily on the floor at your sides. In that case you do not need to write your notes but can use your memory instead. make a mental note of your body's condition. warmer More than likely you'll notice the same things from day to day.Let your feet rest parallel to each other on the floor and about two feet away from your buttocks.
chin toward your chest and then back tip from your chest." you can give yourself the opportunity to improve your performance of any activity. Roll your hips up."time spent on myself is as important as any other time. You may. the shoulder. Do the same with your left shoulder. seems to have some length. Then starting at the middle back. All the while you are doing this. your head continues to move delicately away from your body. let your head move away from your body and let your body lengthen from buttocks to shoulders. will feel slightly longer. front and back. 1. however. several times. After nodding. move your head by nodding it. Again. With your feet firmly on the floor. As you release it back to the floor. Lift your right shoulder toward the ceiling. (Fig. 2. 3. find that your body does begin to lengthen. If that should happen. do the following series of movements to allow your body to continue lengthening. You don't need to push your body into changing. After you've taken this thoughtful rest for a few minutes. move it slightly out from your body. lift your hips up from the floor. The lift continues to the middle of the back.) 2. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 99 . but because of friction with the floor you feel stuck at first. With the back of your head touching the floor at all times. Let your shoulders widen and open. 2. let your head come to rest in a position where your neck. slowly lower your body until your hips are on the floor again. front and back.
Observe whether any other part of your body tightens or moves as you roll your head. Move your head by letting it ease away from your body and. bending your wrist (Fig. as that begins to lengthen your neck. Continue to experiment with moving your head. Moving Your Arms Lift your arms one at a time.Now that you do not feel stuck to the floor. Use the release of tension to move your head. Find a way to move without jerking or setting (tensing) your body.) Straighten your arm. Permit your shoulders to continue easing outward from your body. Very gently lengthen out through your fingertips. Make sure you move your arm without a jolt or locking any part of it. Bend it and curve it any way you wish. 5. All of the movements can be effortless. Be careful not to increase the pressure of your head against the floor.) Finally your upper arm can follow the floating movement and your whole arm will be above your body. There is no need to tense any part of your body to start the movement. Let your other arm rise the same way. (Fig.) Then allow your lower arm to float up. beginning the movement by easing your head upward. following your hand and bending your elbow. Try doing fast movements with the least amount of tensing. (Fig. Any movement can be done by letting your head ease upward and your body follow. Pay attention to what you do with your head and body as you move your arm. roll your head from side to side. Then slowly and gently move both arms in every which 100 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Notice whether or not you press your head into the floor or lift it off the floor slightly to move your arm. rolling it from side to side. Rotating Your Head See how easily you can rotate your head from side to side. Roll it from side to side a few times. you're ready to experiment with some movements in the lying-down position. 4. First let your hand float from the floor. 3.
3. First move your hand. Move your whole arm. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 101 . 4. Then the lower arm moves. 5.
7. lengthen it toward your elbow. finally. continuing the movements of ease. As your leg moves away from your chest again. Bring your leg toward your chest. The object is to learn to move your legs with the least amount of tightening in your stomach.way. Moving Your Legs Next lift your legs one at a time. There's no need to push it away from your body. (Fig. noticing where you tighten and observing whether or not you tense your head as you move your leg. Now lift your left foot again and bring your leg toward your chest. Lift one foot off the floor by bringing your leg toward your chest. See what happens when you move your arms quickly and sharply. body and arms. allowing your head to move away from your body as your body follows. Then place your foot on the floor again. first allow your upper arm to come to the floor. Do this a couple of times with each leg. Whenever you let your arms return to the floor.) Let your right leg straighten in the same manner. your hand.) Your knee will travel through a slight arc. Direct the energy up through your bent knee toward the ceiling. (Fig. 6. As you let it down gently. 102 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . let your left foot slide along the floor away from your body until it is straightened and fully on the floor. back and whole 6. Don't interfere with the freedom you've created in your head. Return always to the bent-knee position. Then let your lower arm follow and.
) Then roll onto your back by moving your head first and letting your whole body follow. let your knees come to the floor. let your head begin rolling toward the same side.body. 8. Seated it's easy to stand simply by following your head with your body. it is essential to let your head continue moving instead of locking in place. To do this. Draw your knees up again. Always let your head and neck be free. The leg is straightened. (Fig.) Now you should be sitting.) As your head continues to move. 9. your head doesn't necessarily have to be the highest part of your body as you stand. As you sit up. while thinking of your legs lengthening outward through your knees. roll onto your side. Rolling onto Your Side Let your knees fall slowly and easily to one side. (Fig. Now straighten up. causing your body to roll until you are lying on your side. (Fig. Allow the ease to continue in your head. If you want to bend over as you come up. Roll to the opposite side in the same manner. Sitting Up To sit up from the lying position. doing the same. neck and torso. Use the arm closer to the ceiling to push on the floor in front of your chest. one at a time. 9. Remember. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 103 . 7. let your head go outward from the top of your spine and permit your body to follow. Let your head move away from your body and let your body move with it.
8. or no pillow at all.). 1. Restful Slumber Sometimes we do not get the full benefit of a good night's sleep because we continue so many of our habits of tension while we sleep. Then let you legs straighten out and rest on the mattress as you continue to let your head move away and your body to follow it! If you must sleep on your side. 9. a few adjustments will 104 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . is better than a stiff or bouncy one. The best way to sleep is on your back unless you have specific physical problems that prevent this position. use the position of rest described above (Fig. Having a good soft pillow that forms to your head. When you first lie down. Let your head roll to the side. Your knees roll to the floor.
that can shock your body with exaggerated muscle action.).). collapsing onto your chest (Fig. Lengthening. or at least rest the upper part of it on your upper side. avoid doing any movement. 11. and let it bend at the elbow. This way your upper shoulder does not curl down. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 105 .11. make this position more advantageous. If you slept on your back. .10. but rests directly above the other shoulder with your chest and back unconstricted. Bunch your pillow under the side of your head so that your neck is straight as it would be in standing. 11. Cramped. 10. This will keep your body from collapsing onto the shoulder that rests on the mattress and will prevent your neck from cramping (Figs. Then lay your top arm on the side of your body. such as a sit-up. When rising from the bed in the morning.
which can tie you into knots or make matters worse. The value of control can be seen if we recall for a moment the many unfortunate events in which we and those we love have been hurt by actions stemming from fear. eliminate the panic from fear and size up the situation that inspires it and do something about it. Any harmful. This is not the same as trying to suppress anger. When you detect these signals. By this procedure you can. gives you a means of coping with the emotion so that it remains a potential for action but does not interfere with rational decision and any action you may take. 106 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Anger. wasteful or debilitating emotion will express itself in tensions that you can perceive even before you go haywire. Rather.first roll onto your side. do all your calisthenics after your body is more awake and your heart has adjusted its beat to a moving body. anger or hostility. then sit up gently as you ease your head and body up. for instance. even before you choke up or explode. simply give some attention to easing your head upward and allowing your body to follow after it. Emotional Control—Worry. they arise subconsciously before the conscious mind can act. the new direction of your energy. Anger. If you must do them in the morning. Panic You can apply the Alexander Technique in your daily life so that your emotions do not get out of hand. among others. Emotions are not the result of a conscious decision. by releasing tension throughout your body. for example. jaw and shoulders. tenses muscles in the neck. inundated by it.
It can be eliminated as soon as you become aware of it. well and good. These people focus on what they won't or 107 . As a teacher of the Alexander Technique. These thumbnail portraits have been designed as a series of helpful hints for carrying out the Technique. we manufacture unnecessary difficulties in the process of learning it. The entire purpose of the sketches that follow is to provide a means for understanding and resolving any unnecessary problem you may recognize in yourself. and it need not impede the smooth course of making the Alexander Technique your own. But perhaps because the Alexander Technique is so easy to do. I have encountered many of the handicaps that people create for themselves at the beginning. The reason may -be that it seems too good to be true: it can't be that simple. But perhaps you may discover one or another obstacle with which you have been needlessly hampering your own progress in acquiring the Technique. the problem involved and the answer to it. and so we go about inventing them. If so. It may be that you are not troubled in any of the ways described below. take careful note of the sketch that applies to you. Following are some of the needless difficulties I have most often observed.Some Helpful Hints You now have the simple program that will make an important change in how you function at every level of your daily life. The Worrier One of the most common tendencies seen in beginners is the "I can't" habit. If that is the case. Surely there have got to be complications.
it's not necessary to be in a state of continual regret when you feel you're in error. feeling very easy. Still. guilt crept over me. I let my arm lengthen and hold onto the scrub brush very lightly. Thinking about how you should be easing up is like making a plan to do the laundry instead of actually doing it. "I'm not doing it! I can't. As I stood there.can't do. In other words. they give their bodies the instruction to follow their heads. "Am I doing it?" They notice that nothing is happening and then they think. The Straining Housewife One of my own experiences can best explain what is involved here. I experimented with just how hard I needed to hold onto it. they immediately ask themselves. I reasoned. While scrubbing away furiously at a burned pot and considering all this. It was still coming clean. Every activity had a different but usually effortful physical attitude attached to it. After that experience. and began to press more lightly on the pot. I continued my experiment until the pot was clean and then I felt actually refreshed. When. As I stood there. There really is no need to be a "straining housewife. I realized I had been bent over. Only by thinking during the activity was I able to avoid doing the excess work that made me feel I was doing the job right. Are you pulling down? Then go up. I suddenly thought. feeling better and better. "Why not practice what you preach?" So I let my head move up and my body follow. I began to notice a definite physical attitude that took over whenever I worked in the kitchen or performed other household chores. for example. This can't be right if it's making me feel good instead of strained and tired. after spending an entire morning teaching the Technique and talking a lot about integrating relaxation into daily activity." The idea of the Alexander Technique is to pay attention to what you are doing. I was in the kitchen one day. Don't worry about what you're not doing. In the process." 108 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . pulling my shoulders in.
" I tell her: You have not quite understood what I mean by "thinking. I can stretch my neck by putting one hand under my chin. Go past words to experiencing the idea. Direct your head to move upward and your body to follow with awareness. I can force . But you can do some constructive thinking that carries over into every activity. and pushing my head up. When I take my hands off. . but you can always continue to direct your head upward as you continue to move about. But I can't keep hanging on that way. The Manipulator "When I get a tension headache. . you can't go around doing that and carry on your everyday activities. The Under-Achiever The under-achiever says: "Oh. my head comes back down again." It is not just the process of repeating the words or idea in your head.' I can't go around SOME HELPFUL HINTS 109 . not a place. Let it happen. the other hand on my shoulder. not hands.The Thinker She says: "I think and think about my head going up but nothing happens. This prevents the tendency to pull it downward. Thinking in these terms must be an active process that actually releases you from the downward pulls you ordinarily experience. well. do it with my hands. The Scientist He has deduced: "My head and body can only go so far upward before levitating is the next step. it takes so much energy to stay aware and remember to move 'Up. There is a maximum point of lengthening the spine." Obviously. How can words possibly make them go farther when you reach that limit?" What he has forgotten is that upward is a direction.
I think of any action as moving upward with my head and body. and when I'm sitting still and not doing anything. I think about that immediate move and forget about easing up." When you're letting your head ease up and your body follow. I can remember to think about it. You won't have to summon the thought to move your head. If you do this. The Step-by-Stepper He says: "I ease up every time before I move. so all you have to do is continue moving and you'll get to where you want to be. The next step. then "up" becomes relative to the movement you're doing. but I just look as though I'm being stiff and formal. your head can still move up away from your body but of course not toward the ceiling. tense some muscles. and it's very hard to do two things at once." Preventing the back-and-down pull is like breaking any other habit. That way change will come out of every activity you do and not as a result of something imposed on you. to move your head up. I go up with my head and let my body follow to reach with my arm in any direction.thinking about this all the time. You still have to learn how to recognize your own movement without tensing or pulling down." To the step-by-stepper I reply: See if you can ease up in order to make a move rather than easing up before you move. it will be there. you're already moving. If you bend over. I have things to do. But as soon as I move. 110 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . to get forward in a chair. will be to learn to continue directing the energy upward during the movement. Soon this awareness will become an integral part of everything you do. For example. At first you have to remind yourself to do something different—in this case. then. Surely I have to do something. The Freezer He declares: "I know where up is.
let go of it. I try to think about "it all the time." First. you tense up. you're trying to learn to use yourself better. I feel very uncomfortable and stiff. then when you get to the limit. The change you can make yourself is very subtle. The Practicer She complains: "I go home and practice this Technique every day. lock in and become inflexible. talking to a friend. I still feel just as tense after a long day at the office as I always did. These are the things you do over and over again. So I don't turn my head.The Over-Achiever He has the opposite problem from the under-achiever: "When I do what I think is easing up and maintain. you're easing up as soon as you think of it. I can really move forward and back in the chair very well. When you start allowing your head to ease upward and your body to follow while you SOME HELPFUL HINTS 111 . and then I feel as though I shouldn't move or I'll lose it. The point of asking you to let your head ease upward and your body to follow is that you can get a little more flexibility and ease. probably without awareness. taking a shower. The fact is. Be satisfied with a little so that you notice the smaller changes more. stop practicing and start living! In studying the Alexander principle. you've lost that flexibility. And when do you use yourself most? In all your everyday activities—eating. When you get to the point where you refuse to change. and I don't ever slouch in a chair. What you do is make your head move up as far as possible. You yourself change from movement to movement as do the requirements of any activity in which you may be engaged. but I don't seem to be making any change. I do ten minutes in the morning and ten after dinner. hold it. That's fine. Maybe I'm practicing wrong." Whenever you think you're doing something right.
in any movement you do." You're making the wrong assumption if you think that simply putting forth energy will keep you in shape. Go back to letting your head move upward and away from your body as your body follows. The Weight-Watcher Her reasonable question is: "You say that if I use the Alexander Technique I'll learn how to put less energy into doing everything. Where is it again? Sometimes I decide to pull my chin in and push my shoulders back but they never seem to stay. notice and see if you can feel a little more ease. But every once in a while. It's the way you use the energy that can be of help to your body. The Alexander principle is a principle of movement. and usually they become a deposit area for flabby fat. You don't have to think during all activity. in taking a step. Because of unnecessary tension in certain parts of your body. you stand up straighter. not of posture and position. some muscles don't get used at all. Won't I get flabby and out of shape if I stop exerting as much energy? Then I'll have to exercise twice as much. And should my feet come down heel first or toe first?" There is no right place to put your head. Then you're on the right track. it just makes for hard. Then you're giving yourself a choice you never knew you had before—the choice of acting with or without tension. then you'll be putting what you've learned to use. whatever you do. Habitual tension doesn't keep you in shape. 112 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . locked muscle tissue. When you learn to use your body as an integrated whole.wash your hands. for example. for example. chin or anything else. then you'll get the maximum use out of all your muscles. shoulders. It just so happens that when you stop interfering with your body's natural functioning. body. The Posture-Maker She says: 'I can't seem to remember where to put my head to get back that floating feeling.
among them Ohio University and Prescott College. world-famous anthropologist who discovered australopithecus and who is self-taught in the Alexander Technique. editor of Alexander's writings. Ms. Missouri.ABOUT THE AUTHOR SARAH BARKER received her master's in fine arts from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Louis. Barker consulted with Professor Raymond Dart. and Edward Maisel. She has taught the Alexander Technique at several campuses. Barker is now teaching the Alexander Technique at Webster College in St. Frank Pierce Jones who conducted major scientific experiments on the Alexander Technique at Tufts University. Texas. . In preparing this book Ms.
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